Saturday, June 20, 2009

who's your daddy, beth mann?

Paul E. Mann

Dear Dad,

Father's Day, whatever. Another day to feel amiss and discordant with the world. According to a magazine article, writing a letter to you is supposed to be therapeutic. I hope so. Because I could stand for some help.

When you left so many years ago, I thought you went to live with a another family with a superior 6 year-old girl. There must be something wrong with me, with us, I thought. And worried, what bad thing could happen to us next?

And now, so many decades later, I don't feel radically different from that sad, anxious little girl. But this routine is getting old. Time is running out. I don't want to spend my remaining years with the nagging weight of your loss anymore.

I get why it imprinted me so deeply. You were my first prince and you left me at such a delicate age. From that point forward, I felt less than. If my first prince left me, then who would possibly stay?

I want your help to shake this stale messaging completely. I'm already making some headway. I see glimpses of a better self. I'm becoming more whole (as far as fractured people go). And it feels fucking nice, Dad.

But those fleeting moments aren't enough.

I also want to be able to dream again.

When you lose your father, you don't dare dream. You just figure dreams are for little girls whose daddies stuck around. Things don't work out the same for the girl whose daddy left. A perpetual Cinderella.

So can you help me? I'm ready to dream again. Hell, I want my life to be an active dream.

I want to fall in love, maybe get married, and spend every day feeling worshiped and wonderful. I want to speak my mind without feeling stupid or ashamed. I want to be at peace, not frightened and anxious. I want to laugh hard and frequently. I want to feel safety and a deep sense of home.

You see, when you left, home left too. But I'm ready for home now, Dad. I'm ready for a new way of being in this world. Because I can't take too much of the old world, Dad. It's eaten up too much of my happiness.

The year my father left

Maybe we wouldn't even get along, if you had stayed among the living. I don't know. But I remember you being a very gentle and just man. Kind. Am I wrong? You loved nature, animals, singing, laughing. You were well-liked and humble. Mom was the dark horse but you were the jovial, peaceful one.

My mom and dad

My father in a comedy skit, with broom

And then the social embarrassment of growing up without a father. Every holiday or birthday, feeling like you were the odd family out. With mom gone, I'm an official orphan. Now I'm forced to hear people say (in this patronizing tone that only I recognize): "You can spend the holidays with us. We'd love to have you." The royal we that everyone has and I don't. Those invitations make me cringe.

So how can you help, Dad? Remind me sometimes that you didn't leave me. You died, Daddy - you simply died, like humans do.

Because I was a little kid, I didn't know how to process grief. Maybe if I was allowed to visit you in the hospital more or gone to your funeral, maybe I would have understood better. But I doubt it. A little girl doesn't understand anything other than "he's gone." 

I so wish you were here, just for a short while. I'd like to show people you exist. You see? I have a father too! A good father! I don't have to hear about your father and all of the wonderful things he does for you. I can brag about my father too, so screw you.

So Dad, do what you can on your end. You can still help me, right? Death shouldn't stand in the way of you being my father.

Until then, I'm just another butterfly on a windy day.

Love, Beth

The last photo of my father, me in the middle. He died 2 weeks later.

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