I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I think I’ve done it. I’ve finally forgiven you. Completely. It started in therapy several weeks ago, when I brought up the subject of how you used to cross those boundaries with me. And it was so hard to talk about. I sobbed. But I needed to know, from a professional, if you knew what you were doing. You see, I’ve heard different things about your mental state. Some say that people who are bi-polar know what they’re doing when they’re on a manic high, and some say opposite. But you were diagnosed with far more than just bi-polar, weren’t you…And I haven’t been taking that part into consideration, those other diagnoses, whenever I’ve thought to the dark memories. So I needed to ask a professional of mental health whether or not someone in your condition had any knowledge, really, of what he was doing at those crucial moments in our past when you hurt me so deeply. Because if you didn’t, if you were not fully capable of reasoning right from wrong, then that would mean that you weren’t in the “bad” category of the male species, the perverse category. I really needed to take you out of that category in my mind in order to arrive at this place of forgiveness, Daddy. You can well imagine my tears of relief when my therapist confirmed what I had hoped she would. You didn’t know what you were saying, what you were doing. You had the lines all blurred in your head. She explained it so well to me, and her words initiated one of the biggest turning points in my life…forgiving and loving you fully.
Oh, Daddy, I’m so sorry!! I’m so sorry that I wasted all these years in anger and hurt and unforgiveness! It wasn’t easy, trust me. So often, throughout the years, I was positively torn between the bitterness to which I felt I must cling and the memories and knowledge of who you really are. You were so fun, so free-spirited, so unique, so silly, so funny, and so gifted…You were unlike anyone else I’d ever met, and you were my dad…and I never appreciated that in the moment. I let the darkness take over. I let your battle become mine. I feel horrible about it now. I miss you so much, Daddy. I wish I had something – a teddy bear or something that I could hold – something that belonged to you and something that I could cry into for moments like this one, when I cannot control the tears and longing I feel for you to be back in my life so we can start over. I want to be your little girl again. I want to believe that I really was your princess, the apple of your eye, your only daughter. Mom said I was, but I have no recollection of this relationship.
On Monday, you’d have been 73 years old had you continued living. I spent the day honouring you, Daddy. Did you see that? Did you feel it? Were you there? Are you here now? Where are you? What’s it like where you are? I have so many questions. Can you help me? Will you please? Can you read this?
I watched The Elephant Man on Monday. My favourite line from the movie reminds me so of you, “Oh, Mister Merrick, you’re not an Elephant Man at all. You’re Romeo.” I would say something similar to you if you were here, Daddy.
I have some favourite memories of us, Daddy…
You took just me to see The Elephant Man. I remember you were trying to connect with me back then. I was a rebellious teenager, about a year younger than I am in the photo depicted above with our dog, and I basically didn’t want much to do with my parents or entire family, really. You started this short-lived thing you and mom called “Father-Daughter Date Nights,” remember? I hated the idea. But secretly, I didn’t. Secretly, I liked the idea of getting all that attention and going someplace fun. (But I wish you hadn’t called it “date nights,” because I was dating back then, and it irked me. But that’s not the point.) The point is, on this one night, you took me to see David Lynch’s The Elephant Man. I had no idea what the film was about. When it came on the screen, I remember being concerned that it was black and white, assuming it would bore me, but you told me to give it a chance, that you thought I’d like it. So I did. Daddy, that film has remained one of my favourites ever since. It touches me beyond expression that you connected with that story. Whenever I hear Previn Barber’s Adagio for Strings, I want to cry. I am playing it now, as I write this. I find it interesting that this piece is also in the Platoon score, a movie about the war you served. That film is also another of my favourites. I am drawn to all such films, like a moth to the flame..probably because of you. Thank you so much for taking me to see The Elephant Man, and for all our father-daughter times. It was pure ignorance, on my part, not to fully appreciate this (or you) when you were alive. It will be one of my biggest regrets until the day I die…
And you were so funny! Do you remember the tiny troll doll houses you created for me on my window sill when I was about 10 years old? And you got so into it! You named them “Skookie Dook” and “Book Balook!” Remember? I loved that. All my silliness is from you, really. I passed it onto Ariela. I sometimes think that Seth is secretly silly with his girlfriends. 😉 And do you know how much they would both adore you if you were still around? I know they would. They’d be mighty proud of their grandfather. You’d be perfect with them. Ariela has a special connection with you. She can feel your Spirit, I think. She’s just really fond of you…We speak of you often. She feels about you much the way I have always felt about your dad, Grandpa Jack. Are you with him now? Please give him so very much of my love, and please thank him for protecting me. Are you protecting me now, too? I like to think you are…
Mom says I get a lot of things from you. Everytime she says that, I swell up with pride inside, because despite it all, Daddy, I favour you. To me, you have so many qualities to admire. I love thinking that I’m more like you than Mom, because you’re so interesting!! If things had been different, if you had been mentally available for me, I know that we’d have been the best of friends, and I’d not have to cry whenever I watch fathers and daughters who are close in movies, because I’d be one of them. I know this. My moon sign is the same as your sun sign, did you know that? This means we’d get on fantastically. And in the end, we did, remember?
Proving that point, another of my favourite memories is my last one with you. You and mom came out to see me in California when I lived in that little studio in Hollywood Hills. We had so much fun. I remember feeling, for the first time ever, that we could spend the rest of our lives together in peace. Maybe I was sensing your impending end less than two months later, I don’t know…All I know is that this visit was different from any other. I felt, then, that we’d made peace, and I dared myself to believe it would last forever. It was your birthday. Mom took this photo of me handing you your cake, depicted above. It was my idea to get that cake for you, did you know that? I remember shopping for it with mom at the market. I wanted to put 54 candles on it! And how can I ever forget swing-dancing at The Brown Derby with you on that visit! You were such a great dancer. You must’ve got that from your mom, and I got it from you. I think of you nearly every time I dance, Daddy.
And when you left that little studio in Hollywood Hills, you slipped me a 50$ bill so mom couldn’t see. Did you do that because you could see I wasn’t doing so well? Did you know that I was working at a horrible club, selling my body 6 nights a week to creeps were really were perverse? Did you want to rescue me, Daddy? In your own way? I think you did. I know you knew I was drinking a lot back then, too. And I remember your concern about that, expressed so lovingly to me as you told me that dream you had..I still remember the dream. You told it to me when we were at dinner in Laemmle Square eating Mexican food…whilst I drank a margarita- certainly not my only that night. But I remember that the entire visit, our last together, was good. Nothing went wrong. And I wished that things had always been that way. And I wished that things could always be that way….
And then, less than two months later, you granted me that wish, didn’t you? You left me with that memory, never to be sullied by any other. You left this world with nothing but sweet memories for me to cherish of our last time together. Thank you, Daddy. That was the best gift you’ve ever given me. I am so sorry I hurt you, Daddy. It breaks my heart to think of all the times I know I did. You didn’t deserve that. Nobody can hurt a person like a child can hurt her/his parent. I’ve learned this the hard way, and at these times (and others!), I wish you were here for me to cry to, because I know you’d comfort me so sweetly. You were so sweet, Daddy. I hope you’re in peace now. And I hope that you and Joseph “John” Merrick are the greatest of friends. If you’re with him, tell him thank you for me, please? His tragic life story helped to bring us closer together, to brighten my own.
Oh, Daddy, you’re no crazy man at all. You’re my hero.
I love you with all my heart.