Dear Dad, I’m 44

Hey, Dad. I wish you were here.

But I’m hoping you’re up there, is that even right? “Up there?” Maybe you’re beside me? Maybe that’s why sometimes I don’t feel as alone, as if I could reach out and hug you, and maybe that’s why other times I have an overwhelming feeling of just wanting to go home? Happiness with you was my home. Anywhere, up there, beside me, whatever, I hope Heaven is a groovy place. I hope you’re watching the Cowboys and the Rangers, maybe playing Spades or a game of catch. The latter is difficult to think about because of the way and circumstances in which you died. Died. Passed on. I think I like “passed on.” Passed on to something better. It still rips my heart apart knowing you were playing baseball and enjoying life, no idea you were about to take your last breath. It seems unfair, in a way, the lack of a warning. No family with you. Just playing a game of baseball, falling… and gone. Just gone. People can say “passed on,” but you’re gone. That’s what I know for certain. Everything changed on September 8, 1992.

Sometimes, I become quite angry we didn’t get to say goodbye to you, but would I really prefer you to have had a longer type of illness, and wither away, seeing you in pain? No. It’s best to know you left doing something you loved. You were only 44 years old.

I’m 44 years old today, Dad.

And I’m scared. Honestly, I didn’t even expect to make it to 44. Now, here I am, and I have this dread. I’m scared of 44 because of your early death and that of your own Dad’s. Maybe you tried to be a great Dad to us because you lost your Dad far too early as well? I wish our youngest sister remembered you better. She was only 4 years old, though. I’m glad our other sister, closer to my age, has day to day memories of you as well.

I’m scared of being 44. I’m scared I’ll leave my son far too early. And who would take care of my Mom? I’m afraid of the pain, I’ll be honest. Mostly, I’m afraid of the unknown. Whatever fills that vast unknown, I know that someday, many days and years from now, after I see my son marry and have his own children, I know you’ll be there waiting for me, welcoming. And if it should be sooner that I show up, please be there to hold me and tell me everyone I leave behind will be okay.

I can’t wait to hug you again.

I miss you. Send me a sign if you’re able. Love you.

Dear Ex-Husband

1.1.20

Dear Ex-Husband,

I doubt you’ll ever read this, but this isn’t for you. I thought I’d write as I enter a new decade. As I will see our son turn 21 years old this year. As I will celebrate with him, just as I have with his high school graduation, learning to drive, first job, taking pride in his physical and emotional strides. He boxes now. Did you know that? No, of course you don’t. He’s a runner. And a good one. And he is an amazing photographer and editor. More so, he’s just a person people want to know – handsome, charming, kind and funny.

I’ve said it many times and will say it until the end, the only good thing you’ve ever done is help give life to two beautiful children. I’m glad they are close and have one another, even though you have nothing to do with your son. I will never understand that. Unfortunately, that is my son’s burden to bear, though I hope he doesn’t carry too heavy of a load regarding your absence because he has had a stepfather who is wonderful to him, and he knows you only would’ve made his life worse. Though, knowing and feeling a thing are two entirely different matters sometimes, but all I can do is be there for my son for as long as I’m here on this earth. Because that is what being a true parent is. And heaven knows, the little you were in his life harmed him considerably.

You might wonder why I’m writing now. Well, I actually saw a film earlier today, and there was a scene that made me think of you. A simple scene, but sad. True. A young woman was trying to excuse her boyfriend of four years for forgetting her birthday. She said it was her fault for forgetting to remind him ahead of time. And I realized I used to have to do the very same thing. Remind you of upcoming Valentine’s dates, anniversaries, birthdays… I immediately reminded myself that those are decades old memories, and just that, memories. I don’t have to live with you anymore. Suffer at your hands. Endure you anymore.

Do you remember when you announced you wanted a divorce, and I begged, pleaded, and fought for almost a year for us to stay together? It wasn’t because I wanted to be with you. It was because I knew that without me there to protect our son, you would hurt him. And that you did. And that you allowed. But he is healing.

As for me individually, I never had the chance to say what I really wanted to say, because even divorced, I had to be careful for my child’s sake. What I wanted to say was that I was finally free. That I felt lighter. Safer. As if I might have a chance to be happy in life, thereafter.

You were abysmal from the beginning, but I was in no state of mind to see the truth. You knew what was going on with me; my circumstances, and boy did you come prepared to take advantage.

I want to say, all those times you cheated, like from the beginning, I knew. You didn’t “pull one over on me.” Did I actually know certain dates, certain women? No. But in my core, did I know? Yes. You became upset when I started gaining weight. I was “eating my feelings,” as they call it these days. Because something inside of me knew who and what you were. Are.

I want you to know that when you were furious I wouldn’t go to your friends’ parties and get-togethers, and I said it’s because I wasn’t feeling up to it, that was only partly true. I did not feel up to it, that’s for sure. It was exhausting pretending I loved you… pretending I liked you. But it was also because I knew how much you would drink and how you would insist on driving home anyway, drunk as you were.

Remember when you graduated from Basic Training when you joined the Army, and I was incredibly late? You were mad at first, just fuming, but our son was an infant, and so I explained I had to pull over for much longer than expected during our drive from Texas to Missouri. Then, you decided that was reasonable, and I was excused. Truth is, he was a sweet little baby who slept almost the entire way. Truth is, I didn’t want to be at your graduation ceremony. I didn’t want to see you.

You were such an awful boyfriend, husband, person… can you truly be surprised by any of this?

Do you remember when I began working part time to “earn extra money to help out?” I just wanted to get away from you.

Do you remember when your second (what are you, on number three or four now… I forget) wife insisted there was no way our son could actually be yours because he didn’t look like you? Do you know how I prayed you would listen to her and leave the both of us alone? But you didn’t. You actually took a paternity test. What would you have done had it come back as negative? Just stop loving him?

Do you remember when I was almost 30 minutes late walking down the aisle at our wedding. I sat there unable to move, trying to decide if my nails looked okay, listening to inner dialogue. “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. It’s not too late. Don’t do it.” But when my best friend came to get me, even though I wish I would’ve confided in her, I stood up and smiled and said I was ready to go. I wasn’t ready to go. That dress weighed a thousand pounds. That veil did not provide cover or protection.

Now, though. Now, I’m ready to finally say goodbye. Those horrible memories, horrible times, horrible days, horrible hours, horrible minutes… they no longer haunt me. Because Ex-Husband, my life and my memories, just like this letter, are not for you. They are for me.