It’s been a while…

I know, I know…of late my blogging has been atrocious. This week for my local writer’s group I had the task of writing a letter to a dead relative/friend. Strange subject I know…and guess who set the task ??

Yes…it was me. I am learning there are few coincidences in life. I know from writing the following piece that I had a need to say these things to a father that can no longer hear them.

But the process of taking these thoughts from my brain and placing them on paper was very good for me. I can move on. I can love with open arms and no expectations, and not be afraid.

Dear Dad,

Earlier this month I took a moment to ponder what it would have been like to still have you here. You would now be 107 years old, and I wondered if time might have made you different. Seemingly out of nowhere came a thought. Common sense tells me that of course nothing comes out of nowhere. That our thoughts are simply pulsating deep feelings that we may try to bury, yet like an earthquake they will eventually erupt and arise to the surface. My thought was this. Love and hate are very closely bonded together. I realised that when I think of you in the quiet moments I waver between the two.

I remember and love the moments we shared. It was only as I became an adult I truly appreciated how you suffered through my learning to cook, never expressing what you must have felt about some of the awful missteps in the kitchen that still made their way on to your plate. You generally ate every mouthful, and for that I loved you. I also remember you teaching me to drive, and wonder just how you made it through that period without suffering a serious heart attack. There are many of these memories that pop up. Often they surface when not expected, but they give me a sense of peace.

I also remember how you broke me in to so many pieces that 20 years later I am still finding cracks. It was not until after you died that I realised how like Pop you were. I should have seen the signs; perhaps I did but chose to ignore them.

Family was in fact a burden to you. When it came down to it, like Pop, you were not above exploiting that family for your own needs. As I reflect, one memory in particular arises again and again. It was painful at the time. It is still painful. Conceivably that is why for many decades I buried it deep inside. I was an eight year old, getting to know her mother for the first time. Using guile and guilt you tried so hard to bring me to heel. When I take that memory apart now I see a selfishness I had refused to acknowledge in you.

Put that aside…and oh how I loved you. I still do. I always will.

You left this world in 1996. You left it leaving behind your signature on some papers that would do exactly what I believe you wished for. Papers and a signature that would tear me in to little pieces. I know that you had no way of knowing what a vulnerable state I was already in, because I kept from you the news that my marriage was falling apart. So for a time…even broken as I was by your action…I did not hold you to account.

When the news came to me days after your death of your decision to cut me so completely, at first I felt nothing. I moved from room to room in my newly rented house, and often wondered how I came to be standing where I was. I dressed and fed my two children, your grandchildren, yet a part of me was disconnected from everything in my world.

One day while I was cleaning out the pantry, my disconnection, the very thing that had held me together for those few weeks, dissolved. As did I. I lay amongst the tins and packets of food on my kitchen floor and piece by tiny piece cracked open so wide that feeling the world around me became a painful thing.

A hug from my children, seeing a butterfly land on a flower, a summer shower…all those little things that had once given me such peaceful joy now caused more pain than you can imagine. It was as if any pleasurable thing that touched me wore a coat of acid.

For years the pain of living with what you did seemed simply too much. The pain of knowing my father was the cause seemed simply too much.

In the following years many things happened, and the adulthood I had so longed to postpone found its way to me. My children were a large part of my learning about the world. I learned that I could love so deeply and so unconditionally that I was in truth…nothing like you. With that revelation came some peace. With that peace came some forgiveness. Not only for you but also for me. I forgave you. I forgave myself for still loving you. You who could consciously cause a child of yours so much pain, so much sorrow. I promised myself to learn to be everything you were not.

I would love my children…with no conditions applied, with no expectations that their lives were mine to control or to exploit. Love is often a surprise to me. Having never really felt secure in love I was a prime candidate to be like you. To seek it, to demand it, to hoard it. I imagine there is more of my mother in me than I will ever know. Because I have learned that love is not to be controlled. It is only when you embrace it with loose arms so it is free to leave when it desires, that you ever truly experience the peace and the joy of it. And I wonder if you saw the part of me like Mum, and that is what drove you to wreak such destruction. In trying to punish me you were also trying to obliterate her in payback.

When it came time to write this letter to you I was surprised to find that feelings I thought of as gone, were actually just in hiding. Love and hate. The two ends of the spectrum of emotions. I hate what you did. Still. But…yes, with me there always seems to be a but, I am also thankful for it, even if I can never grasp what drove you to inflict pain of that magnitude on your own child. No matter what you perceived my guilt to be.

Asking a pregnant woman to choose between the two most important men in her life was unjust. Clutching your perceived sense of being wronged when you were the one who forced the choice in the first place was unjust. Unjust and unkind. And once again I am surprised at myself. When I take my memories out and lay them before me I see that in fact you were not a kind man unless it suited you. A kind man would never have allowed the police to hold his 18 year old daughter responsible for a car crash, when he was the driver, and drunk at that.

Perhaps I am now the one being unkind, for the possibility exists that you did not fully comprehend the fall out from your actions. Yes the possibility is there. The probability and the likelihood of that being the case, sadly is minimum. The child that still lives on me would love to latch on to that possibility and therefore be able to imagine her father as a kind man, a just man. The adult in me knows better. The parent in me is uncompromising in her revulsion of the cruelty of your action.

So there in lies the hate part.

And the love, where does that come in to play? In forgiving you, and forgiving myself for still loving such a father. Through forgiveness I have learned to love and love freely. I have learned that even if love is not returned, as we would wish, the act of loving itself is a blessing. I have learned that a love that has no expectation except to be given is the purest form of love, the one that gives the most reward.

You Dad, with your love that was wrapped in expectations, and punishment should those expectations not be met, yes you, taught me how to love without expectation of any kind.

Your lessons though oft times uncompromising and harsh, were for me, lessons I now believe I needed as I went my way in this world. You taught me how love should be, could be, and luckily for me, is.

How can I do anything else but be grateful to you for teaching me what is the most important lesson I have ever learned, for handing me a way to learn the true value of love ?

Love freely given.

Love without expectation.

Love that compromises.

Love that is unconditional.

Love that seeks no reward other than the pleasure of loving.

So there in lies the love part.

Ever your daughter,

Love Joanne.

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Author: Jo Bryant

I was born in the land of Banjo Paterson, gum trees, and weather extremes. I am a freelance writer. I live in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, but still like to claim my Australian heritage. I graduated with a Bachelor of Communications in 2008. I am writing my first novel. I love to write poetry, short stories, and also write for the web. And there is nothing that is on a par with a sunny summer's day spent at Waihi Beach.

23 thoughts on “It’s been a while…”

  1. You’re such a brave woman Jo. I don’t know if I would be able to forgive this man. Thank you for letting me read this intimate work, I hope it is cathartic. Take care darling, good to see you as always, G.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a lovely thin to say Gilly. Forgiveness is hard. I had to do it with both my parents [and am still in the process of trying to forgive one brother – that sadly may take decades], but having done it with Mum & Dad…I learned that I was the one who got the benefit. Once I really forgave them [and not just mouthed the words], I became lighter in my spirit. I find it is what allows me to close the door softly but firmly on all those things in the past that did damage.

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  2. You are a stronger person than me, I had a similar relationship with my dad and I could never be so kind as you..Love is an emotion that is natural with no expectations by either parties…

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    1. Thank you Gerry. You know about a year after this my counsellor [I went to one when my marriage began to fall apart – and man was he good – he saved me] dragged me in front of a mirror at the centre and told me to look at myself. I was a bit ‘huh’. He told me he saw someone much stronger than she realised. That he saw someone who was reclaiming all that she had lost. It has been a long journey…but I now feel just about done.

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      1. It is a good thing you realised you are stronger than you thought. It just needed a little nudge in the right direction… I sayy to you Jo, whho do you see in that mirror now? Well done..

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  3. What a powerful post Jo and I miss you from The blogging world! I have an amazing relationship with both my parents and I know that I’m lucky. Being a parent is the most important job there is as yes the good and bad impact a person for life. It is good that you wrote this Jo. Part of the healing process.

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    1. Awwww thank you Nicole. I do miss blogging at times. but I find it hard to feel good about putting stuff out there lately. This piece just flowed at the time, and I was happy with it…so I figured it would be good to share. I know how important a parent can be. My daughter once told me she was amazed at how I knew how to be a Mum [after learning some of my history], because my family & growing up was terribly convoluted. And this piece has been a part of the healing process. I now feel…done with the past.

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  4. My heart is filled with yours right now. What a moving, soulful piece. What a moving, soulful woman. How very blessed I am to share this time on earth with you. Soar with those beautiful wings now, dear Jo, soar in all the love that you are.

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    1. Thank you dear Brynne. I needed this story I believe. Needed it to finally be able to close the book and say; “Done !!” Now on to living the rest of my life the best way I can.

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  5. Oh wow, Jo. This is so beautifully written and obviously straight from your heart. It’s heartrending to read, and I felt echoes of my relationship with my own dad flowing through your words. I also had the kindest of moms. I often think about my dad who’s been dead now for eleven years, and wish he could have been different and consequently happier. I feel more sorrow for him than hate, and like you I also loved my dad right to the end. *hugs*

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    1. Thank you Sylvia. I am not sure how kind Mum was…I really only knew her for a few years before she died when I was 12. I do know she broke Dad’s heart when she left him. I often wonder whether this is what hardened him. But from what I can gather from relatives this hardness was a bit of a family pass down. Though not all the family were like that. One of my Dad’s brothers, and his two sisters were very wonderful people. I guess I will never really understand what shaped Dad. He did seem to loosen up over the years I lived with him [13 -24], but perhaps not as much as I imagined. With this piece though…I feel like I have finally put a fullstop at the end of the story and can now move away from it with no more pain.

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        1. Very true. When I finally forgave Mum years ago…that was one important thing I realised. I had never walked in her shoes, so I had no idea what made her so irresponsible. I was finally able to believe that Mum did the best she could manage with what she had in her. That helped me let it all go.

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    1. Thanks Madhu. It was a very cathartic exercise…and I know understand where the topic came from. I needed to say this out loud to be finally able to walk away from all of it, including the damage it did. Now it time to just love freely and move on to a new place.

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  6. That is such a hard thing for you to write about, even to think about, then to read out loud to your writing group and put here is an act of bravery. I hope it has given you release from the past and you can now go forward in peace.

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  7. Dear Jo,
    I am sorry for the pain you experienced-how upon seeing beauty it hurt more.

    I cannot imagine what you have had to bear.

    Your letter is filled with courage and love. You are strong beyond words for what you endured.

    How privileged we are, you allow us in.

    May the writing of it and sharing it, help your heart heal from being so wounded by one who should have loved you the very best in the universe.
    Xxoo
    Ruth

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  8. That is a good Letter Jo, and a perfect one as this new Moon gets its grip with us .. And I know so well those cracks that spring open when we least expect them too.
    I wrote a similar letter to my Mother after she had died, being as she would not speak to me while she was alive!..
    I sent it via the Angels as I dedicated it and burned it.. Hoping beyond hope that as the embers rose and turned to ash.. So too would the wounds I carried be healed..
    Love and welcome back Jo..

    Love Sue ❤

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