From Letters: Dear Pop

It is morning in purgatory. . .
It’s strange to realize where we are sometimes. The way things are and the way things have been have certainly changed throughout the years. Life is different now. Then again, this is not to say life won’t be different in say, two years or maybe less. All I know is the world I believed in is less than what I had hoped it would be. We’ve gone crazy down here. All of us.

I suppose there was no way for you to prepare me for this. It’s not like this was anything anyone could expect. No one really knows what the future brings. No one knows what creations will change the face of our existence. No one can predict the direction we head in.
No, I suppose one can only assume. I suppose, if we knew what to expect we would be more prepared when life changes. Yet still, we know that changes come. Change is law, right? We know that life takes place and no amount of pretending can change this fact. I took this thought from Socrates because i agree with him. It’s true. No amount of pretending is ever going to stop life from happening.
Intellectually, we understand that life has a starting point, a middle and then an end.  We understand this however, emotionally, I can’t believe how many years have gone by since I’ve heard you call me son.

You would never guess where we are now in this world. Times have certainly changed. No one uses fax machines anymore. And come to think of it, fax machines were like a new science when you were around. Everything is electronic now. We use emails with preferred pronouns at the bottom; and I say preferred pronouns as in the preference today to indicate he or his, she or hers, they or them. Gender is much different from when you were around, Pop. And I’m sure some of this would blow your mind.
Literally everything is electronic. Cell phones are more important than you would ever imagine. Come to think of it, cell phones may be more important than a man’s wallet. At best, I believe you had a car phone in your work truck. I miss that truck, by the way.

We have all been spread apart since your departure in ’89. More and more, we grow more distant from each other. But I suppose life is like this sometimes. Life can be seasonal, which means we grow distant and then closer like the northern hemisphere in the summer months

There were lessons that you tried to teach me. I know. I didn’t listen very well. I tried though. I suppose it is safe to say that my level of understanding was at a different plateau than your levels of teaching. Not better or worse. Just different.
Safe to say we were in different places at the time. Safe to say that I wished I learned how to understand when it counted. Suffice to say that nothing teaches us more than life and experience. Then again, no one really knows what life is until they experience it. 

I’m trying though — you know?
It’s hard sometimes. Life. Being a grownup.
It’s hard to figure out where I missed the turn or if I missed a step. Life can be a lonely place sometimes. By the way, I learned that being lonely has nothing to do with the company we keep. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I’ve been in crowds and yet, I never felt more lonely.

These are not lessons anyone can teach. We can talk about this. And sure, we can try to warn the people we love. We can tell people what to look for. Yet still, life’s the kind of teacher that makes you stay after class if you get the lesson wrong. 

There are things we always want to hear. At the same time, there are things we always want to feel. For example, we always want to hear our parents say, “I’m proud of you.”
Win or lose, we always want to hear the words, “Good job.” We want to know that there is pride in us. We want to know that regardless of the breaks and falls in life, without fail and without conditions, a father’s love is always a father’s love.
We all need early morning moments, like say, fishing from the shoreline at the bay on a late August morning. The sun was high and the winds were warm. Do you remember?
I do.
I remember the expression on your face as you watched the float at the end of your fishing line. You watched the red and white bobber, floating along and popping up and down in the rippling waters, just waiting for it to dive under because you caught a fish.
I can see this clearly. I can see the sun glisten upon you. The wind blew through your salt and pepper hair. Man, the sun was strong and the sky was so blue. Everything was perfect. Everything, except for the cut in the bottom of my foot, which I never dared to complain about because the last thing I wanted was for us to go home. My foot could have fallen off and the pain could have been impossible and still, I wouldn’t have said anything. I was too afraid to lose the moment, which I knew was a rare occurrence.
We were wading in the waters, about ankles deep. You were looking out from the shore and watching the sea. I remember.
I remember your eyes showed an intensity; as if there were so many ideas moving through your mind.
I always wondered what you were thinking. I always wondered if the thoughts you had were good or troublesome. More than anything, I always wanted to think, feel and believe that I was enough. And for the record, I do not say this disrespectfully or insecurely. No, I say this because our ways of communicating were damaged. I had my way and you had yours. We were similar and yet, dissimilar at the same time.

I suppose all I really wanted was your approval. All I wanted was to know that you believed I was good. Then again, herein lies the problem.
See, I had this thing in me. I had this misconception, which I wholeheartedly believed.
I always thought there was something wrong with me. I was frustrated. I could never seem to understand things the same way other people would understand them.
I felt shame. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. More than anything, I lacked the language and the ability to explain what I was thinking and feeling, which I understand now. This is frustrating. In fact, this was frustrating for the both of us.

I used to wonder why you would yell but I don’t wonder anymore. No, I think I understand now more than ever. I understand there are times when things are beyond our control. I understand when life is unfixable. I get it when plans fall through. I understand disappointments. I understand how it feels to have things go beyond my control. And no matter what, no matter how much I shake my fists or curse at the sky, life can be uncontrollable sometimes.
Life doesn’t always go our way. And this is the bitch of it all. This is why we yell. We just want things to be okay. We yell because we have no control. And I suppose this is why you yelled at me. You were scared. You were frustrated. More than anything, you also couldn’t help me. You certainly couldn’t fix me. The square peg and the round hole is a bitch to get through. I know this now. 

I wish we had more time to talk. I was so young then. I was too afraid. I had challenges that you never really knew about. Or then again, maybe you knew about them all too well. Maybe this is what frustrated you the most.

I always wanted to feel and believe that you were proud of me. I suppose this doesn’t always shine through. Perhaps we think our love and care is obvious. And maybe love and care should be obvious but as I look back, there were times I really needed to hear you say the words. There were times when I was hurting. There were times when I swore that I couldn’t take another step. And yelling didn’t help.

I still remember the new golf bag. I remember the time you showed me what you did for me. I was too sick to lift my head from the pillow to pay attention. And you knew I was sick. And you knew why. You knew what I was doing to myself, which is what hurt you the most. This hurt because you also knew that you really couldn’t stop me. 
God, I wish I could have lifted my head from the pillow.

I’ve listened to others ask me, “Where were your parents during all of your troubles?”
I shake my head. I laugh sometimes because people think parenting skills can overcome mental illness. I dare and defy anyone with their high and mighty opinions. Everyone’s a critic these days. Including me, which is why I struggle so often. I had to learn how to shut this part of my thinking. I had to learn to be my own hero instead of my own worst critic. It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it.

I don’t know where you are. It’s been a long time since we fished together when the snappers were running. It’s been a long time since we walked the beach on New Year’s.
It’s been a long time since I heard your voice and sadly, it’s been a long time since I heard you say, “I’m proud of you son.”

I’ve been clean for 30 years tomorrow. I say this because you never had the chance to see me this way. In fact, you saw me in the times when I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow.
I’ve done my share to clean up and pay for my sins. I still have some outstanding debts, which I continue to pay for anonymously.
I know that someday, I will have to face myself. I will have to face my mistakes and if my belief is true; there will be a day when I have to face my creator. And I will answer for myself.

When asked why, I know I can say where I’ve been and what I’ve been through. If asked why, I can say with a humble heart that I lacked the ability to believe in myself. I was hurting. I was frightened. I was challenged and lost. I can say that in exchange, I have done my best to pay for my mistakes. All I can do is chin up and face myself because to me this is what a man does (at least, in my opinion).

And that’s me. I’m a man now, Pop. And that’s the truth. But sometimes, I’m just a boy.
Sometimes, I’m just a boy in need of direction and attention. I’m just a boy that needs his father to put me on his shoulders or to teach me how to play catch. I’m just a boy that needs to hear, “I’m proud of you, son” or “I love you.”

If I could hear that from you . . . now, that would make me happy.

Gotta go now, Pop.
It’s time to go to work. I hope this letter finds you well. And don’t worry. Tell Mom that I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself and staying healthy.

I love you

Your son

B⁠—

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