Dear dad

Quelquefois je m’avoue que ce qui me plait le plus dans cette idée d’éternité, c’est la chance accordée, en retrouvant les âmes chères, de s’expliquer à fond avec elles, et que cesse enfin le long malentendu de la vie. – Gabrielle Roy

1 Samuel of your father’s old Bible is riddled with little marks of his attentive reading. He loved David; he surely related to him. David was the runt of his family, like your father was the runt of his. To what extent, like David, did he feel overlooked and ignored by his own family, dysfunctional as it was with an alcoholic patriarch at its helm? What abuse did he witness? What abuse did he suffer? Nobody knows. He never talked about it. But it must have been bad. It must have looked like the anger he wielded on his own body for daring to sneeze or hiccup, at tools for not functioning quickly enough, at animals for being injured or weak: unpredictable, irrational, disproportionate.

Vieux pépère Ducoin (10 January 2021)

“On a des petits sacs dans la tête,” says the psychiatrist to Riad Sattouf during his second consultation with her in L’Arabe du futur 6, and inside these little bags are the buried emotions we have not taken the time to examine. These emotions often date back to the earliest years of our childhood, when our parents constituted the center of our universe, when everything that came from them was perceived as truth. The child, the pyschiatrist goes on to say, “se construit avec cette éducation et vivra avec s’il ne la remet pas en question.”

Sidewalk cracks for Vieux pépère Ducoin

In your first session with the shaman, he has you lay down on a table, on your back. He puts a heavy blanket over your body, from your neck to your feet. He tells you to close your eyes, to imagine a hole in your stomach, to expel from that hole everything that hurts. He moves around the table, chanting. His hands hover close over different parts of your body, sometimes for a second, sometimes for a minute, sometimes forever. Despite the little voice in your head screaming that this is just a bunch of cheesy voodoo bullshit, you do it: you imagine the hole in your stomach, you expel from it the things that hurt. All these little bags. So many of them. And then, finally, the shaman’s voice: “I am worthy.” Three words. So simple. He wants you to repeat them, but you can’t. You are crying too hard.

Standing atop the steps of the Amvets hall, just inside the door, your father cries like this. He isn’t worth all the trouble his family has gone through to organize this party to celebrate his 70th birthday. He isn’t worth the food and the cake and the cards and the gifts and the songs and the stories his children and grandchildren and siblings have written for him. He is not worthy of all this love and attention. And yet here it is, outward expressions of it, for him. It’s overwhelming, it’s confusing. This is not the truth around which he has built himself. And though it is not his custom to drink to excess, it is what he does for the rest of the evening. To numb his senses. It’s not during a birthday party in his honor that a seventy-year-old man is going to start questioning what is and what isn’t true about the education he received as a child from his parents. It’s not during these last years of his life that he’ll do it either. Like the stubborn mule he is, he’ll stick with the truth he knows.

If only you could lay your father down on a table and ask him to imagine a hole in his stomach through which to expel everything that hurts. If only you could have him plunge back into that hole and pull from it the wounded boy buried inside there, to shower him with love and care and attention, to hold him and protect him, to do for this little boy, in other words, what he did for you, the runt of his own children, in the first years of your life. But it’s too late now to do anything for that little boy; he and all his pain are buried deep inside a man who is himself now buried deep in the ground.

You, though, you are not yet buried in the ground. You can still plunge back into the hole you made in your stomach and pull from it the child buried inside there.You can tell her that she’s not a bad girl. That her father isn’t angry with her, that he hasn’t stopped loving her, and that there’s nothing really to forgive her for. It was an accident, after all. The kick to the family jewels followed by his wife’s angry ça bon recalled a childhood truth he had never thought to question: that he’s just a runt, that he’s not worthy of anyone’s care and attention and love, and that he should, as a punishment for daring to challenge this truth, deprive himself forevermore of the playful, joyous, loving, caring and protective relationship he has with his little runt daughter. None of this is her fault. Tell her these things, that you may hear them. Which means out loud. I’m not kidding.

Albert prenant une pause (23 February 2021)

Dear Dad,

I’m sorry I stopped going to church all those years ago. I’m sorry also for the disparaging things I may have said against it, for the blasphemous remarks I may have made against your God. That must have been hurtful to you. Please forgive me.

Please forgive me also for scribbling all over the cover of your Bible that day. I wish I had read it instead, which is to say, years ago. I would have seen in there sooner the lessons in the messages you had left for me. There’s the one in 1 Samuel where Jonathan, heir to the throne, recognizes in David the true king, for example. Be as Jonathan, this lesson says, give God his rightful place at the helm.1 I’m sure I would have made fewer mistakes if I had understood this sooner. I hope, for example, that I would not have allowed things to get to the point with you where your passing would not have moved me to tears.

But Julie and I are talking again, which means the lesson was not lost. I thank you for this, and I apologize if it was hurtful to you that two of your daughters were not speaking. Again, please forgive me.

I wouldn’t be asking in the present letter for all this forgiveness if I believed you incapable of granting it; I ask it of you because I know you will. This lesson is also in 1 Samuel. If God can forgive David’s sinful acts of adultery and murder, how much easier he can forgive mine! It’s done, in fact; Jesus has already paid for all of them. To accept the gift of his son’s sacrifice is to honor God; to honor God is to receive his healing grace; to receive his healing grace is to observe what you wish for me: that I be happy, that I be well; that I be peaceful, that I be free; finally, to observe your wish for me is to observe it for you. Wherever you are, then, may you be happy, may you be well; may you be peaceful, may you be free.

Love always,

Adèle

p.s. I almost forgot to mention that I’ve been going to church. As in traditional Latin-mass Roman Catholic Church. I know. It’s not me on whom the irony of this is lost. Anyway, I’m getting married there in several weeks. His name is Antoine. He’s so beautiful. I wish he could meet you; I wish you could meet him. I know you would love each other.

p.p.s. Who do love more: David or Jonathan? Me? Hands down: Jonathan. That guy’s fidelity and loyalty is just drop dead sexy.

Water stain for Albert prenant une pause
  1. See The rightful king and A green turd walks into a locker room. ↩︎

3 thoughts on “Dear dad”

  1. Beautiful Adele. I’m always moved by the power of words. To remember that we have a thought, we attach a feeling to that thought and act based on the feeling we have established as “ correct” for that thought. As you know and write about here, when our feelings become skewed based on negative experiences, skewed from the reaction of others in our childhood.. we assign an incorrect “ wrong” feeling on that original thought, but practiced for years and years they trick one into thinking it is indeed, correct. Once we realize this; it’s like 👏 . Thought-Feeling-Behavior… always in that order. ❤️

    Reply

Leave a Comment