Dear Dad

Note: A letter to my late father written early this morning. I don’t have a current mailing address for him, so I’m putting the message here.

Me playing Little League baseball catcher in 1992

Dear Dad,

You promised me that when you turned 50 we would go on a ski trip to South America. But on 1 March 1994, when you were 49, you shot yourself to death.

For the past 28 years, I have remembered that promise several times a year. It enters my mind of its own accord and leaves likewise. A loop that seems impossible to close.

I didn’t even like skiing. In fact, I hated it. It terrified me when you would send me, an ungainly child, down black diamonds and double black diamonds.

But I was a boy who wanted to be with his father.

For the past 28 years, when I have thought of you and your self-destruction, it has been with excuses for you. With one exception. In 2019 a nurse told me to write a letter to you with my nondominant hand. I did and was surprised at how angry it was. I put the letter away. The excuses for you continued.

This week I went to a West Seattle park that has a small baseball diamond. A dad brought his middle school son and his son’s friend there to play. I watched what a good father this man was. He listened to what both boys said with his undivided attention. He handicapped himself to level the playing field. He gave both boys enthusiastic encouragement.

You weren’t there.

You had a responsibility as a father to teach me how to take care of myself. How to provide myself with self-generated safety. But you abdicated that responsibility, broke that parental promise.

I more or less know how to generate safety for myself, how to work as a substitute teacher for Seattle Public Schools and cook for myself and much more; however, I just can’t seem to make myself believe it’s efficacious enough. There has been no father to confirm my adulthood by showing pride in my skillful successes. That results in a constant low-level anxiety that I soothe with constant intense thought, talk, and writing.

It is correct to say that there are many angles from which to view your death, including the role of your own family and wider social forces. But Mom is getting much older now and one of my nephews killed himself earlier this year. After decades, I’m done, for now, with giving you the “to some extent” and “on the other hand” treatment.

After three or so years of just talking about doing it, I’ve finally hung up inspirational quotes and photos around my home. It is far past time to no longer be on your side, apologizing for you to onlookers.

I can parent myself.

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