This is an open letter to you. I’ll probably never tell you it even exists. You might read it, you might not. Either way, it’s not really for you.
Before I start, let me say this: I love you, forever. Every child knows the love they have for their parent. From the most privileged to the most abused, a child’s love for their parent is a love that is pure and unearned. I love you for your existence, and even more for the love and sacrifice you’ve shown me my entire life. Thank you for it all. Thank you for the chance at breathing air, at hearing my daughter giggle, and the euphoria I feel when I listen to a good riff. Thank you for life.
I think deep down every son and father struggle to get everything they want out of their relationship. It’s a complicated thing, to both respect and adore your father, and at the same time strive to be intimate and tender with him. Society – the patriarchy, competition, survival – doesn’t make these relationships any easier. Our relationship has been one of both deep connections and, at times, superficial, willful ignorance.
When I was young, you were my best friend. You were my playmate and my inspiration. You were a god to me. I recall less than I’d like to, but I do remember the spinning rides in the laundry basket. I remember attempting to stay atop your back while you bucked me like a bronco. I remember watching G.I. Joe with you. Later, I remember the air-condition-less minivan you’d pick me up from school in. I remember convincing you to take me hunting and how you probably didn’t really want to, but you did it anyway. I remember hammering that deer hide into the tree, proclaiming my intent on tanning it, only to realize I had no clue how to actually do so. All of these memories exist because of you and your intentional presence in my life.
I also remember the disappointment I felt the first time I saw you hang your head in shame, forced to admit your faults to me. I remember the disappointment I felt the second time, too.
You are not perfect, and your imperfections seem to linger in me as faults. Though, I have learned many remarkable lessons from you. I’ve learned how to speak eloquently and how to think thoughtfully. But I didn’t learn from you how to treat women properly. I didn’t learn from you how to cope with my addictions.
I guess this is all to say that you’re not perfect, and I’m not either. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to learn that that’s okay. You will still disappoint me as we age, and I’m sure I’ll disappoint you, too. That’s just being human. You’ll also still love me. You’ll still text me every week or so to make sure I’m doing okay. Truth be told, I wish you’d call instead of text sometimes, but that’s alright. I’ve got to keep things in perspective. Some men have no fathers. Some might as well not have any. I am awful lucky, all things considered.
I desperately wish I knew your father. He’s the man I am, twice removed, in some genetic sense. I wish I knew him more than the legacy of alcoholism he left behind. I wish I knew him so he could tell me about his dad. Maybe those conversations would help me know me a little better. I am sorry you didn’t really know him either.
I think I’ll leave this one here.