It is early morning, Christmas Eve, and I have been awake for a while now. I woke up in the middle of the night last night (again, of course) but this time was a little different from my usual bouts with insomnia. No, it wasn’t like that at all.
It wasn’t the usual kind of troublesome mid-sleep, wake up; I lay there in bed, my eyes close, only to open up again, and of course, I’m thinking too much about too many different things. Instead, I woke up and went downstairs to sit in the quiet and enjoy the soft white lights hung around the Christmas tree.
This year was our tallest tree ever. It has to be more than 10′ tall with a big white shining star on top. The shiny tinsel moves slightly between the ornaments, glimmering in the warm quiet shine of a beautiful dim light. And me, somewhat sad, somewhat immersed in the truthful beauty standing before me in my home, somewhat missing my family which is gone and/or irreversibly changed, and somewhat humbled by my age and the changes life brings, the way time is depleting and the realization that time is not an endless thing, and feeling somewhat grateful for those I’ve moved away from and somewhat hopeful that one day, you, me, and all of us will reunite someplace, and the tension will be gone, the anger evaporated, and it will be as though a minute hasn’t passed since we saw each other last.
I have told others the story of my bus trip home back in the year 1989 from the town of Monticello back to our neighborhood in Long Island. I wrote about this several times to several different people but I realize that here we are, 2018 is closing in and I have never written about this trip to you.
There are so many things I always wished I had the chance to tell you. I wished I could have told you the truth more. I wish I wasn’t afraid to speak with you and I wish we had more times together.
As I boarded a Greyhound Bus to head for home, I sat towards the back at a window seat with my head leaned up against the cold tinted window. It was gray outside and there was plenty of snow on the ground. Indeed, this was a white Christmas. It was beautiful and sad, colorless but meaningful, and above all in a time of the apparent end, there was life about to be reborn.
I was just on the ice of a pond in front of the main house on The Farm. We were about to play dodge-ball on the ice when I was called upstairs by a man I’ll name as E.J.
I never liked E.J. and he never seemed to like me either. I hated the way he spoke to us on The Farm. I hated his condescending smirk and the way he would give instruction or run groups. I tell you, I hated this man, but of all men and out of anyone else on The farm, the sent E.J. to come and get me from the ice and bring me upstairs.
I didn’t want to believe it, Pop. I didn’t want to hear the news. I didn’t want to go upstairs or step foot into the house because deep down, I knew what was about to happen.
Anyways . . .
I went up and heard about what happened. I swear, I could have taken anything else. I would have been fine with any other kind of bad news. I wished it was something from the courts. I wished the news was me getting in trouble. I could have taken that. I could have taken jail time or even life imprisonment. In fact, I would have welcomed that. I would have welcomed anything and I could have taken it all, —just don’t take my father from me.
I sat on that bus for a long bus ride home. I thought about praying to God, Himself. And I did pray to Him for a while. I tried to make a deal. I invited him to come with me to the hospital, but I was never quite sure of God showed up or not. I asked that we switch places. I asked that I go instead of you.
See, the thing is I was young at the time. I was unsure of what I could do in this life and unsure if this life of mine had anything to offer. I figured since nature often corrects its mistakes, I swore that it was a mistake that you were sick. This had to be a mistake and why wouldn’t it be? You were good to people. You worked hard. You always worked hard and with all the hours you put in, finally, things were starting to come your way.
Dear God, I asked. Tell me how this is fair!
But God didn’t answer me on this one.
I remember the deals I tried to make. And I offered these deals to God with hopes he would accept a trade. But the deals didn’t go through, —at least, they didn’t go through as planned.
I always wished you knew a few things about me. And I thought about these things while I sat on that long bus ride home. I always wished the tension between us could stop. I wished I knew how to stop fighting back. I wished I knew how to give in or let go but no matter how I tried, it always seemed that I would dig myself in deeper.
I wish I could have told you all the things I had built up in my head. But most of all, I wish I was able to tell you who you are to me. And more importantly, I always hoped that I would make you proud. Instead, I froze. I couldn’t find the words when I saw you there in a hospital bed.
You were my very first hero. You have always been my hero. I always wanted to be like you. In fact, I always wanted to be exactly like you. I still want this and I am like you in a lot of ways.
Today was the day I came home to see you for the last time. I was glad I came. I was grateful for the last few days we had together and I don’t regret a minute of them, —I don’t even regret the bad minutes or the last minutes because at least I was there and at least I had the chance to say goodbye.
This time of year was painful time of year for a very long time. I never knew how to let go. Somehow, I believed that if I let go of the sadness or if I let go of the mourning process, it would mean that I was wrong or that I didn’t love you enough. I suppose I thought if I allowed myself to move on, I would somehow forget you and disrespect your name and what you mean to me.
Mom was this way too. She never knew how to let go of the pain. She held on to it because I think she was afraid to let go. I think Mom believed if she let the pain go it meant that she was letting you go as well.
Truth is Pop; I don’t have a lot of childhood memory. I didn’t have the best start and we never had the time to say the things we always wished we could have said. I suppose this is why I am sending you this letter now. I’m sending this out to be placed in the universe with hopes it finds its way to you.
I want you to know that I still have that same dream, —which is to be exactly like you. I still want to make you proud and I still wish you could come over one day to sit at my dining room table, to see what I’ve done so far, and to see the world I live in now.
You passed away on a Friday morning, December 29, 1989. A lot has happened since then. I laugh sometimes when thinking about how you would have reacted to the current state of technology. I remember your confusion when you brought home our first VCR and you asked me to teach you how to use it. Now it’s my turn to see all these new little machines and feel lost about them.
I also laugh because you thought the kids from my day were spoiled. Then I laugh even harder because I find myself saying the same words you told me when i complain about today’s generation.
There is so much going on right now but I’ll leave that for another letter from a son. For now, I’m going to enjoy the sunrise and the rest of my coffee. I have enclosed a picture of the tree in my home.
We have gifts underneath it. I suppose there’s room for more just in case you and Mom decide to stop by. Please try if you can. We’ll have plenty of food (I promise) and I can show you my loft and the certificates I’ve earned. It would really mean a lot to me.
I miss you, Pop