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A Letter to My Father

It's been 18 Years Since He Died

By Dr. Randy KaplanPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Photo Courtesy of Harvey Finkle of Harvey Finkle Photography

This afternoon I went shopping for food. While checking out, I thought I needed to write a letter to my Dad. When I walked from the store to my automobile, I was reminded of the many weekends we spent a Saturday together going food shopping.

Going to shop for food was one of the activities I did with my Dad and my mom. Food shopping was a significant part of my young life. 

I was never close to my Dad. Of course, we lived in the same physical house, but I'm not speaking about being physically close. My dad had issues expressing love and caring.

I have two siblings; a brother and a sister. My sister was 16 years older than me, and my brother was eight years older. They were both pretty much non-existent. 

In the limited contact I had with my brother, he played two roles with me. He was a surrogate parent telling me the "right way to be" when he thought it was necessary. The talks were unpleasant. He, like my Dad has never been loving or pleasant. Fortunately, he wasn't home enough to know when I did something wrong, so I was pretty safe. His other role in our relationship was as a bully - both physical and psychological.

My parents were extremely reactive, and I stayed away from them as much as possible.

If things had remained the same as I grew older with my Dad, not as they did when I was young, dad had mellowed. He loved my kids. These kids were adopted from Peru and oh boy they were cute. He found it hard to resist them.With my kids my Dad felt like he could show caring and he enjoyed the time he spent with them. He would go to performances that the kids had in school. I knew he never liked to do that.

It was through my kids that my relationship with my Dad improved. We started having more or less regular conversations. I think he cared about the conversations that we had.

During the last months, of his life I became the caretaker. My brother and my sister were pretty much MIA during those months. My sister hated my Dad, viscerally. She didn't even show for his funeral.

My brother continued his role as corrector-in-chief and bully-in-chief when dealing with my Dad's situation. I could write another story about my brother, but this story is not about him. 

When my Dad died, I was alone. My mother passed away, so I had no Mother then my Dad died on September 25, 2004.

I was with him the morning of that day, and then I went to see my son at a track meet. When the runners at the track meet started, I got a call from the rehab where he was staying telling me my Dad had died. I rushed back to the rehab to see him. I felt sad and guilty because I wasn't there when he died. It was hard to believe he was dead. He was dead.

I picked him up from his bed in my arms, held him, smelled him, kissed him, and hugged him. I cried. Those were the last moments I spent with my Dad.

Now that I've given some background to the letter to my Dad, here it is.

He died in 2004, 18 years ago. I haven't spoken or written to him since then. 

October 12, 2022

Dear Dad,

I was food shopping today, and I had a flashback about food shopping with you and mom at the end of shopping. I should write you since I haven't written since you died.

I was wondering how you are doing. Have you aged at all? I suppose not. Has time stopped for you? Is it challenging being away? Did you have to explain anything to anyone? If you did, what did "they" want to know? 

I imagine you are getting angry now because I am asking you these questions. A long time ago, when I asked you questions about how you raised me, you became very upset and had to backpedal from those questions. So I won't ask any more questions about this subject. I am sorry if it upset you.

I miss our conversations and the advice you used to share during those conversations. I especially miss how you supported me when you thought the people I had to deal with were assholes. It was a time when your support was unconditional.

I missed you because I wanted to share the experience of being gaslighted out of my last job. I wonder what you would have thought about that. Have you heard about this thing called gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a psychological attack launched by people at a workplace for whatever reasons they want to get rid of you. In my case, the person who established the gaslighting attack was a narcissist. I angered her. I threatened her status. I had won a $650,000 grant for our department at school, and I helped my chairperson complete her Ph.D., which she had worked on for 12 years with no sign of finishing. It was clear to me her committee was not in a place where they could move her ahead toward completion. Under my supervision, she completed her dissertation in two years. During this two years I met with her on a regular basis. 

Although they wanted to fire me, they couldn't. I had tenure. They planned to damage me psychologically and create an environment I couldn't tolerate. This is my analysis of the situation - not any proven conclusion. I left two years after their attacks began.

What do you think about that, Dad? What advice would you have for me?

If I had a chance to tell you when this episode began, you might have told me something that could have been helpful. I wonder what you would say to me today now that you've had time to mellow even more.

Dad, you would have probably said to ignore whatever they were telling me or tell them to jump in a lake and drown. Unfortunately, you never understood that I was different. I was too sensitive, and I needed not to be so sensitive. That is what you'd tell me. But in my lifetime, I've never been able to "desensitize" myself. It took me five years to recover that gaslighting attack and its outcomes.

And you'd probably say something like, "it's your fault. Live with it!" Well, that's what I did.

Do you remember I hugged you on the day you died? How could you? You were dead. I wonder if there is any transfer of memories from the old life to the new life. Do you lose everything in the new life? Is that how it works? That seems like a good thing. Starting fresh is a good thing.

If I had known this, I could have just forgotten it all and then moved on, right? That's the ticket, move on and let it go. Don't dwell. It won't do any good.

That's the advice you'd give me. Thanks, Dad. I'll write again soon. I hope things are happy for you there.

Love,

Randy

This story is not without its morals. The things my Dad would have said to me were the same things I had heard since the time I was six years old. It was not uncommon for me to be told to "not worry too much," "let it go," or "why are you so sensitive?" Nothing was new there. After you hear something enough, perhaps it is time to start listening.

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About the Creator

Dr. Randy Kaplan

Welcome to my Vocal page and storicles that are published here. I write about tech, the human condition, and anything else that interests me.

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Comments (1)

  • Karen Mengel about a year ago

    Very touching .Thanks for sharing a painful part of your story.

Dr. Randy KaplanWritten by Dr. Randy Kaplan

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