I often ask myself why I write here. Who is this for? Do I think it’s even worth reading? This kind of writing can feel like the most self-centered exercise ever undertaken and I surely don’t post enough cat pictures or gossip to compel people to return.
But today’s worth it.
The reason, I’ve found on more than one occasion, that I keep going is wrapped up in the same motivation I had when I found out I was becoming a father: “I wish I knew what my father was thinking when…” And so I catalogue my thoughts like a strange Ikea brochure with unfamiliar words and half-witted construction.
When my father passed away, he gave me two boxes. One box was filled with rejection letters from publishers and pitches he had sent out. The other box, however, contained his personal belongings. Things that still had his scent on them. The prize of that second box was a collection of his personal journals. Today, I want to share something I found in one of those diaries. It’s a letter he wrote to me when I was four years-old…
Your mother and I are in Jamaica now, far away from home in the Caribbean. Since you were a tiny boy I’ve wanted to compose this letter. I guess the thought first came up in a moment when you had again saved my life, or pulled me out of the depths of sadness. I know at the time it would be impossible to make …
You were named after your great grandfather, Charlie Morgan. He and I shared something when I was a little boy: heart.
This. This is why I write. Because even a half-written, well-intended dispatch from a southpoint in time is better than a vague, distant memory evaporating into the Heavens. And how odd that I should find this note at the precise moment when my son is the age I was at the date it was written. Maybe I should buy some lottery tickets?
Much like his attempts as a father to his children, Dad started with great intentions when he began writing to me, but he couldn’t seem to follow through. I’m filled with conflicting emotions about his admission. I can recognize the pain he was going through and identify with the power a son can have over his father. Finnegan has been a catalyst for my growth in ways I never could’ve imagined. But I’m also slumped over in my chair with the weight of the legacy he’s presented. I know the end of the movie that was his life. My father fought himself as much as he fought with his superiors and the meter maids giving him parking tickets. Do we dare make our kids responsible for our well-being?
Losing my dad almost ten years ago ultimately meant that I couldn’t go to him for all of my questions about raising children. I keep wishing I could reach him using some ethereal app on my phone that puts people in touch with deceased loved ones. If only the iDead app existed so we could text annoying questions to relatives in their final rest. I’m sure they’d enjoy that. I sure enjoy being woken up at 4:00am by my oldest son after two hours of sleep on Saturday morning, and I’m alive.
But I’m thankful for these journals from the past, even the entries that are less than positive about us kids. There’s something freeing about reading my dad’s description of my childish behavior as “insufferable.” It gives me some room when I’m pleading with my son to try a bite of food that I know he’ll devour though he rejects it on principle. I find the whole thing utterly fucking ridiculous. Such is life. We navigate the ridiculous to seize a genuine moment.
So, pardon me if I ramble or pontificate every now and then. Sometimes, I just want my sons to know how my mind worked. Or how poorly I can construct a sentence. I’ll do my best to finish my letters to them.