The Last Letter
It had been a miserable 18 months. Lost jobs, lost possessions, lost wife. Just when you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you realize it was a train. There wasn’t any relief in the bullpen, either. Bad luck always comes in threes, you say? Mine came one after the other. Three was just the beginning.
I was at the end of my rope. The only thing holding me together was my eldest son. The girls had all grown up and moved away, concerned with their own lives, children, and their mother. My son had gone too, but he kept in contact better than most, calling every few weeks to see how I was holding up. I told him I was ok, trying to maintain the illusion that everything would come out fine. But, I was sinking slowly. Just like the frog in a pan of warm water, I didn’t realize the danger.
FaceBook brought the pan up to boiling.
A catty comment from my youngest son’s mother burst the illusion. She thought he was me. So he called her for clarification. She gave it to him, in spades.
My son sent me a text message that brought my whole world down in flames.
I had not talked to my youngest son in months. Not a month-MONTHS. Six, to be exact.
I have no excuse. I’m not trying to give one. I just haven’t called him.
His mother and I get along. We don’t see eye to eye about how she raises him, but I have no say in that. I didn’t know he was mine for ten years. By the time I met him, he was already set in his ways. My directions didn’t mean a thing to him.
My eldest went after my ass, with a vengeance.
“What the hell, Dad? Why haven’t you called Ricky? You ain’t talked to him in SIX months, Dad! Why?”
I got mad at first. I was about to blow back on him when I stopped and thought about it. Damn…I hadn’t.
I just sat there, numb.
“You better get your ass on the phone and call him. There ain’t no reason for that, and you know it. You know better.”
“You’re right, son. There ain’t no excuse,” I said. “I just haven’t been too proud of my circumstances…”
“Then make the best of them, and get them better. Who taught me to never give up? You did…are you giving up?”
“No, I ain’t giving up, but I don’t got as many opportunities as I once had.”
“Dad, I don’t want to hear it. I can’t see my little girl because that bitch Toni refuses to let me see her, and I’m not in state. It is driving me nuts. You, on the other hand, have no excuse. Sonya will let you see Ricky. She don’t have too much good to say about you, but she won’t stop you from seeing him.”
“I’ll try son.”
I called Sonya. She was curt on the phone.
“What do you want?”
“Is Ricky around?”
“Call him. His number hasn’t changed in two years.”
So I did. He sent me to voicemail.
I had no email address to send him an email, so I texted him a long message. I think he blocked me, because it didn’t go through.
So, I shortened it, asking for his email address. No answer.
Shame raged through me. I had turned my youngest son against me, and I had no one to blame but myself.
I texted Sonya, asking for her address. I told her I was going to write him a letter.
“He really doesn’t want to talk to either you or Jason,” Sonya texted.
“I know. If he reads it, I’ll be happy. I don’t deserve much more than that.”
So I sat down at my computer. My mind kept returning to a father I never saw. One I never got to know, and swore I wouldn’t be like. One that was a complete mystery to me, due to his “other” family. One I hated until he was gone, then wished I could talk to him to understand why it all turned out like it did.
My Dearest Son,
I have not talked to you in quite some time, and for that, I owe you an apology. I did not intend to do this at all, but some of the things your mother said that you have asked her need to be addressed. There is more to it than what you read on Facebook.
Contrary to popular opinion, I do not love you less than your brother or sisters. Your brother and you are my only natural born children. Therefore, if anything, I should love you two boys more than the girls. But that isn’t right either. See, I began my relationship with their mother when they were young, and they actually asked me to be their Dad. Even though they are not my children by birth, they are by choice, and that means a lot to me. They both know their fathers, and still consider me to be Dad. So, even though you “think” I love them more than you, it just isn’t possible (your mother apparently thinks the same way). I love you all, in very different ways. But I do my best NOT to play favorites. I love you all equally, even though you don’t think so at the moment. Of course, when you see the “You’re my favorite” stuff online, what you are not seeing in there is the next word, which is usually their position in reference to their age. Marti is the oldest, so she would be the favorite “Eldest (which means oldest)” daughter. Connie, is the favorite “Middle” daughter, and Cathy is the favorite “Youngest” daughter. She lives in the same town as her father, so my approval isn’t really a thing to her, but she loves me. I do this to all you kids, including the grandchildren, so you DON’T get the idea that I am choosing favorites. It is a private joke just for the family, not to publicize favorites. Don’t take it for more than it is.
Now, about me sending Marti a birthday present, but not sending you one.
Son, being a writer is more difficult than I ever imagined. There isn’t a lot of money in it, and what little I’ve had is going to keep me fed, clothed, and to put a roof over my head. I have not made enough money to send you anything, because I barely have enough to make ends meet. The reason I sent Marti money on her birthday is because she asked me to help her. Her vehicle had broken down, and she needed it to get back and forth to work. She needed the money to make sure she had food in the house for her boys. She had to spend her food money to buy parts for her car, and she had no other choice but to ask me to help her. I went into debt borrowing money to send, just to make sure her boys had food on the table. Although it seemed like a birthday present, it wasn’t. It was survival money. Again, don’t take it for more than it is.
By the way, should you have questions for me about anything under the sun, you can call me: any time, day or night. If I don’t answer, I will return the call as soon as I am able to. I will never intentionally ignore your calls.
As for my not calling: I have no excuse, and you have every right in the world to be angry. I can only apologize and do my best to do better, when you decide to let me.
I do know how you feel. I felt the same way when I was younger.
See, my Dad was never in my life after my Mom and he divorced. When I was little, I would ask my mom why he never called. She told me lots of different answers as the years went by (as I’m sure your mother has told you, as the years have passed), but I never understood. I figured he didn’t love me, just as you probably think. I also hated him, as you might feel right now. But as I got older, I did have some contact with him. All phone calls, never a meet as you and I have had. He told me that he would explain everything once we met face to face, because he thought it was important enough to say what he had to say in person, not on a phone call. I believed him.
I still do, up to a point. But I recently changed my mind. See, my Dad passed away before I got the chance to talk to him. I also lost a good friend of mine in the last couple of days, and that tells me that I should explain what I need to right now, instead of waiting. I realize that tomorrow is never promised, and if I have something to say, I better get it out, just in case.
Son, I love you with all of my heart, and I know that you are angry at me. I am truly sorry that I have not contacted you. I have been at a true low point in my life, and in between feeling sorry for myself, surviving, and trying to get better, I neglected you. I do not deserve your forgiveness, but I am begging for it. Your mother has said some pretty bad things to me, and I deserve them. I will understand if you have washed your hands of me, or given up on me, and I will understand if you do not want to contact me. But, I hope you will consider forgiving an old man for his stupidity. It may take some time, and I understand that. But I will be waiting to hear from you, either to tell me to go away, or to tell me you forgive me. Should you forgive me, I will try to keep in much better contact with you. I have a lot to learn, and I hope you will teach me.
Either way, I will wait patiently for your answer. I will try to call you, and if you do answer the phone, I will say it to you then, as I will say it now: I love you, son.
With Eternal Regret,
I knew he wouldn’t be able to read my horrible handwriting, so I printed it out. Yes, it seems a bit impersonal, but the message was the main thing.
I mailed it out the next morning, and time will tell. The waiting is the hardest part, as it always is. But, I promised. I’ll give him a few days to receive it, then a day to decide to read it. The call will tell the tale.