I have resurrected this blog after three years of inactivity. I started writing in 2012, as I awaited the birth of my third daughter and worked through my complicated feelings towards my father, who was still alive. I called the blog “Dear Dead Mother” for a couple of reasons: first, because I insisted to myself that my father was not the intended audience – what I wrote would be between my mom and me; second, because I thought the title was a little provocative – would it attract a few curious readers?
As I begin writing again, my father is dead too. Should the blog’s title change? He is definitely among those for whom I write now.
[Dad, early 1970s]
Three years ago, on the night before Thanksgiving in 2012, my dad called me on the phone. We hadn’t spoken in over a year. He told me that he hoped that we could start over again. I told him I was willing to, and I sent him a link to a video of my 6-week-old baby staring into the camera lens and cooing beautifully. He watched the video the next day with family at Thanksgiving dinner in New Orleans, and I heard that he cried when he saw it.
Before that night, one of the last times he’d called me on the phone was from a bus stop in Chinatown, where he waited to board a bus to Atlanta a year earlier. He had successfully completed five weeks of detox and rehab in NYC, but within days of checking himself out, he started drinking again. Waiting at the bus stop, he called my apartment and breathed heavily into the phone. Though he said nothing, I knew it was him. I said, “Hello! Hello?” After the fifth call, I pounced on him, “I know it’s you, Dad. What’s the problem? What’s going on?” His heavy breathing stopped, and after two seconds of silence, he said, “You fucked me. You fucked me.” He was seething, and he scared me. I hung up the phone, ripped the cord out of the wall, and ran to my room. My two daughters played quietly in the room next to me, and I laid in the fetal position on my bed, hugging my body pillow. Wasn’t my dad supposed to protect me?
Though Thanksgiving 2012 promised a new beginning for my father and me, our starting over again never really got started. Despite months of sobriety that he had achieved through participation in a residential rehab program in New Orleans, which he had sought on his own, he slipped back into drinking in early 2013. In June of that year, he died alone.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for many things, including my renewed commitment to telling my story, my dad’s story, our story. I was angry at my father for awhile, but sitting where I am now – surrounded by my children and this year’s silver Christmas tree, nurturing the memory of standing on stage last week and talking out loud about our very different journeys – I am hopeful that our starting over again will actually start now.