To the Woman Who Gave Me Breath and then Gave Me Life by Giving Me Away:
I am sorry.
Ten years ago you wrote to me. Ten years — and I feel as though I fucked it all up.
“I’ll let you decide how far you want this to go,” you wrote. “I truly do not want to intrude on your life. If this ever becomes too much for you, just let me know.”
Despite my silence, I have not reached this place.
When we first connected, you had lost the love of your life. Five years ago, I lost mine.
You see, he was the only man in my life to love and accept me for being me — no matter how difficult I made it — and he was my dad. My father was an extraordinary man who gave me an extraordinary childhood and then guided me through the extraordinarily difficult consequences of the many poor choices I made in adulthood.
His death broke me.
Interpersonal relationships have never been my greatest strength. I rarely let people get close — and it has only gotten worse since losing my father. I didn’t realize it at the time or even two, three, or four years later, but I shattered that day. For five numbing years my ability to care — for anyone — has been limited to my two sons and my mother and my brother. In truth, I haven’t done much of a bang up job there either.
At one point, I began to think of you as family — not my parent, but maybe an older sister. How could I not? We are so much alike. I want to explore those similarities. Allowing myself to do that means letting you in. It means letting my half-brothers in. It is a commitment that, someday, I want to make. But, not today. Not now. Admitting this is acutely difficult because I realize I might miss out on something. It is a risk I must take because I need to be a little less psychologically splintered when I take that last step.
I wish there was a timeline I could give you, but grief has a firm grip.
Bradley Cooper, the actor, recently described the moment his father died and his words resonate through me.
“It’s a new reality,” he said. “Everything, everything. It’s not even one thing, it’s a whole new world. And it was instantaneous. It wasn’t like, months later. It was like, his last exhale, and I was holding him, and… everything changed.”
I did not hold my father as he died. Miles away, getting ready to go visit him in hospital, I was showering and nearly collapsed in agony at what I now know was the very moment he left this Earth.
I did not take time to grieve.
Oh, I cried and refused to leave his beside once I reached the hospital. I sobbed through funeral preparations and visitation and the service we had to celebrate his life, but I did not face my grief… or, as important, my anger.
There was so much to get done. After all, the last thing my dad asked me was if I was going to graduate.
Nineteen years after I first dropped out of university to have my oldest son, I was set to earn my degree — and, in my sorrow, I had no choice but to lock myself away from the rest of the family and finish writing my senior thesis. It was less than a week after losing him. My bachelor’s degree was conferred one month later. I did it as I promised him I would.
The emotional cage I built around myself in order to get it done never opened.
I came out of the bedroom that doubled as my writing room and carried on with day-to-day life, but I stayed emotionally locked away with my grief and anger. They are still here. Slowly, painfully, they are seeping out of my soul and I am most unpleasant during this time.
You do not want to know this me. Like I said — not now.
But, don’t give up. Not yet.
This is me asking you to stay.
Wait for me.
Unless, of course, you already left.
I will understand.
Note: This letter was originally published on December 18, 2018 on Medium. In 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage.