Having completed the letter to Natalie, I started to work on the one to my dad. This one hacked opened fresh wounds; removing the new skin was needed because the flesh didn’t close the cut with any precision. My brain / spirit had been put back together, but were held in place with the same sort of scripts that had held them together after Natalie’s death. The gratitude exercise was freeing and restarted the recovery journey.
When I saw Heather the next day I mentioned that I wasn’t sure we’d ever reconnect. This comment landed oddly. “Pat, you need to clear the space in your past to allow you to recreate a history that more closely resembles what you lived.” (Or something like that). “And it wasn’t completely selfless. If this [our relationship] is to be all that it can be, your past needs to be put away accurately.”
I know I said thank you and told you how grateful I was for having you as my father a few times during your last few weeks, but now that it’s a few months later, I’d like to let you know some other things.
The last 4 1/2 months have been a wild ride. February was a month to get wasted and forget, to feel victimized and create as much pain as I possibly could. But it was also the last month of the life I had been living because your death meant that I had no one else to blame for my place but myself and once I had to start blaming myself I found it a lot easier to change my behavior.
I miss you like crazy dad, but your dying meant that I could finally start my life. It’s weird to say, but your support and belief in me was something I used to keep me standing still. I’m grateful for it, very few other people in the world have supported and helped me the way you did, it made life less risky and dangerous and it allowed me to read, write, train and have fun knowing that nothing would ever go wrong. I don’t miss spending my time like that, but I’m really thankful that your life afforded me the opportunity to do it. It was a lot of fun, I expanded my mind and I was able to do a lot of things first hand that others can only read about or observe.
I’m grateful that you taught me how to love a partner! Your relationship with mom is special. She doesn’t cook very much anymore, she doesn’t see the point of it. I get that, I just didn’t realize that the two of your were so much a part of each others identity. I miss her cooking and knowing that there was an outlet for her love. I still think back on all the amazing food over the last 6 weeks of your life and am happy with the thought that maybe those will be the best meals I’ll ever eat. Anyway, I still like food and have stopped eating sugar for the most part because you warned me not to eat too much of it because I could end up like your dad. I’m kind of rambling because I’m sad. I haven’t been crying much recently. I burned a lot of it out and kind of blame the crying and grieving for why things didn’t go well with Sharyl. I sort of haven’t really opened up with Heather about you, and I think she’s noticed something incomplete about it. Heather is amazing dad, she’s everything I believed a partner could be, but never felt I deserved. All of this is to say thank you for modeling how to love your wife because I plan on being my version of those behaviors for Heather.
Thank you for being an amazing dad! I’ve told you this a bunch of times, but I have a greater understanding of it now. You were tolerant and understood things that you didn’t need to understand. You continued to learn so you would have stuff in common with Des and me and you deferred to us as experts when I noticed a lot of other peoples parents wouldn’t accept that their kids had developed skills that far exceeded anything their parents could possess. You never played small or made us feel bad for being the experts in these areas. You had a young spirit still, and you allowed us to mentor you. I know very feel parents like that and it is a quality that I am working hard
to maintain - that is to remain open to a changing world even when it becomes difficult to adjust to the newest trends and information.
Thank you for being an amazing friend to those you impacted. Your wake was a lot of fun, it was the kind of event you would have loved! George from across the street told me and Des separately that he really liked you and that you never had a bad thing to say about anyone. It chocked me up because I am often a little quick to condemn others for their actions. Hearing him say it and then having Des tell me what that he had said it to him changed me. While I don’t really need people to say the same thing about me, I do need to mellow and accept others for doing the best they can. I remember you saying that to me once, that you do your best regardless of what comes of it. I didn’t really understand that so much until recently.
This is hard dad. I’m crying because I’d love to chat with you about how things have adjusted over the last few months, to tell you that I get it now and to talk to you about the world as I see it. The world is an amazing place full of wealth, possibilities and opportunities. It isn’t the scary place I was pretending it to be so I didn’t have to try. It is the world that you tackled so many years ago, the world that you taught Des and me to enjoy and the world that had you and mom move us to Canada, to give-up the familiar for the possibility of a better life.
Dad, you and mom were right, this is a better life than what Ireland would have been. Canada is amazing, the people are great, it’s a fantastic society and most of the people respect each-other. I will become everything that I have ever wanted here and that is because you created the possibility by giving-up what you were doing so Des and me could do what we wanted.
Thank you for showing me how to be a father. I may never become a dad and I’m okay with that, but if I do, I’ll be a lot like you. I’ll be honest and teach my children to be compassionate and loving. I’ll be fair to them, not a friend until they get old enough to know what a parent friend is, but not a jerk either.
Most of all dad I want to say thank you for putting up with me and helping me deal with the challenges life gave. For a lot of it I thought I knew better and didn’t really appreciate just what you knew and did. We did chat about this on the Saturday before you ended up in the hospital and I remember driving away thinking we were complete. I didn’t want it to be that way, I wanted there to be lots more chats, but under the circumstances, we both knew there wasn’t much time left. You were amazing, you were open and loving and you were my dad. You were so much of what I am and what I will become. I am so grateful for you. I’m half your dna and half your upbringing and I am 100% your son.
I knew we would eventually part ways, that life ends for everyone. You were open about this and you never avoided this reality. You were honest with me, even when it didn’t make me feel better. And I suppose that’s what I needed. You were trying to set me free from the demons of my past, from the meanings I created from the events that occurred. I not sure I ever thanked you for that part of it. Thank you.
I’m going to go now dad. I’ll close this with saying that I am becoming me for the first time in my life. I’m feeling the possibilities that I felt when we moved to Canada and I’m very aware that you have guided and helped me become so much through your life and in your death. Thank you for all of it.
No matter what becomes of life, I will always strive to be a man that you are proud of and to cultivate the compassion for other people that will have George say “you’re just like your father you are.”
I love you!