Love Letter #3: I Am Regret
Read the previous Love Letters here:
I awoke this morning, angry and intolerant. I was even annoyed with you. You, the one…not here to comfort me. You, so quiet. You, too absent in my life now.
I laid in bed and wondered, my mind rambling…
Will you ever allow me back into your life?
Will I ever see you again?
Will you ever love me again?
Do you even care that I love you?
I grunted, my sweet songs and angel whisperings not enough this morning, this day, this Friday to rouse me from the right side of the bed.
I rolled off the wrong side and smacked my nose on the floor with my fury. With my regret. With my pain. With my disappointment in him–my father.
My father is bedridden, disgraced by his body as it fails him one last time.
Gandalf the Brown and Yellow, covered in excrement? Or is he Grey?
My sweet babies…all lovingly wrapped around me…had crawled in my big bed a few hours earlier. Perhaps at three or four in the morning. Who knew? I couldn’t remember. My sleep had been so broken, so tortured and fragmented all through the night.
You had been there in my dreams. That much I know, but couldn’t remember how or why or what… what advice you might have offered. After all, you have been here. You know what this feels like. What it felt like for you.
I think back to what happened after your father left this world…and have nothing to say. I have zippo, a big flat blank check that no bank would ever cash. I was worth nothing to you then. Not like I should have been.
Why should you be anything valuable to me now?
Yet, selfish me, I still want you to be. To be that which I don’t deserve, in return, for what I never gave to you, plus interest.
After trying once or twice to gather the strength to take my babes back to their beds, I gave into the joy of a family bed. A full bed. A warm bed. A not soaked in piss and shit in my own diaper, like my Dad, bed.
I was too tired. Too angry. Too full of regret. Me, needing my little ones and the idea of family. Perhaps, even more they needed me and my teaching of that same ideal. Family.
My father is dying. For real, this time. Not in three months… like the doctors said about fourteen years ago when this happened the first time.
The kids and I go to see him in a few weeks. Hopefully, we will get there…before. Before, whatever that means.
I lavished up the sweet soft skin of Jake’s feet pressing on my leg, probing, and pushing, even in his sleep to make sure I was still there. His loving mother bound and eternally connected to his sweet self…as if I could ever choose to leave him. The idea so preposterous. So impossible.
Like I am sure at one point my father felt about the five of us rag-a-muffins. That he would never leave. Yet he’s about to. Any day now.
Like one day, I too, will do. The impossible, leave them. Emma and Jake.
I caressed Emma’s fingers…rough from gymnastics lessons and smiled. Her hands, one on me, the other searched for something in the distance. What, I cannot say. Her cat, the favorite soft toy of the week, or her Nana? Perhaps even her father, like I once reached for mine? Perhaps her newest friend in school. Her softest robe. Her favorite colored pencil. That rough and lovely hand on me…so flawless, so unforgettable, making sure I stayed put, like a good mother should. Like a good father should.
Have you ever really examined the perfect contour of a child’s hand?
The tiny precious fingers, so anxious to intertwine with yours, are a delightful slice of heaven’s pie. They are ten lovely reasons to wake up happy each day. To stick around. To never leave. And the skin, so pure, so innocent, so delicate, like marble love, is absolute evidence that miracles do exist. That God does exist. That Love on a lollipop, waiting to be licked, is possible.
Give me an atheist and a child’s hand any day, and I shall convert him, faster than a purple-robed pastor could ever hope to. The child’s hand…a masterpiece, every single time, could have only been crafted by the one true God…by the master of the Universe to prove to me and the rest of you flagrant non-believers that (S)He is real.
Today even that was not enough.
I scoffed at God and got out of bed. Ten fingers. Twenty fingers, actually. The same number of toes, still not enough. Not today.
I don’t take medicine. This morning I took two Aleve.
As I swallowed the blue vermin, probably expired and toxic, I flashed back to a memory. To so many years ago.
I saw Dad laughing, wearing those ridiculous thick-framed Buddy Hollies like a nametag while he held up his guitar and led a jam session with four other Arlington-native dork-o-ramas in white shirts. Some photo from the days when he revved my mother’s engine. When they sang a Beatle’s tune and dared the thirty-year-olds to make them turn down the volume on the amp. The days when rock-and-roll birthed teenage punkers destined to prove to the world what real music was made of.
I can see that classic grin on his face. He tilts his head just slightly, almost winking one eye. He gives you a subtle nod, making sure that you know you are in on some serendipitous secret that all the others have missed.
I know that special smile of his, like I know yours. The one that means, he is up to something. Probably something great. Genius even.
How many girls can say their father is a genius? Was a genius?
I know at least three, personally. (I have two sisters)
A series of other memories followed suit. Some mine. Some stolen from photos that I had pretended to include us kids, even though they were taken before our supposed births. Flashes in and out of the good times past. Most of them decades old.
I found myself lying on the cold, fake-leather surface of a Furr’s Cafeteria booth. I laughed as a toddler-sized toe-headed-Jeremy buzzed about on the buffer, headed for certain death and destruction as they rounded the corner…too fast, while Mom wasn’t looking. She was too busy vacuuming to know what we were up to. Dad, King-Janitor of the Furr’s All-Night Castle, with my two rowdy brothers en toe.
I flashed to me…sitting next to Dad in my theatre chair eating hotdogs, terrified of the Three-D Blade of Jason, come to get me after his fourth resurrection. I hummed the creepy tune from Halloween, the scariest movie of all time, while making mental notes. Somehow I knew it would come in handy thirty years later.
I smelled the glorious scent of Straw Hat Pizza, melting in the oven while we rode the quarter horses well past midnight. And the aroma of Brain’s Barbeque…more delicious than anything I have eaten…to this day…still haunts my dreams. Me the vegetarian, craving true barbeque bliss.
Angel and I flying, side by side. Me on one of Dad’s feet, her on the other like Peter Pan and Wendi planning to gather up the lost boys. She, Peter, of course, leading the way and me, the childish Mother, come to save the delinquent rascals from both Hook’s and poor hygiene’s grip.
Too many to share, I’ll stop there.
Then of course the bad times followed.
The beer. The never-came-to-one-of my… this or that.
I thought of all the things he genuinely could have been instead of an absent father, half-drunk on cheap beer.
Comic Store master
Author of more than one published Sci-Fi short story collection.
Blah, blah, blah.
The raw artistic talent in one of his ten fingers could have filled a museum. Should have filled an auditorium. And he had all ten. Ten toes, as well.
I flashed back to the image of him now. No glory. No fame. No Oscar. No lifetime achievement award… blah, blah, blah. Same ten fingers, trembling. Same ten toes, shriveled and useless.
A thought popped in: Life’s a bitch and then you die.
“Yep, that’s true,” I affirmed.
Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer would not be impressed. Surely I had flunked my last Law of Attraction course. I was attracting more shit to coat my shit. A double shit dunker.
“Yep, that’s true,” I affirmed, louder this time.
Emma rolled over and coughed.
I brushed my teeth and watched the toothpaste go down the drain. Just like Elise Phillips and Wendi Patterson…my small town dreams stolen by the blade of a monster and my forty-three staple tracks all that I had left after my kidnapping. My happy youth, stolen by a monster soaked in booze. I considered turning on Lionel to sooth my raspy soul…but even he couldn’t help me now.
Then I remembered something a counselor once said to me…that my idea of a perfect life holds absolutely no bearing over the value of another’s life. What matters is how they feel about it. I shouldn’t be so self-centered. I was, after all, not the center of everyone’s Universe. I chose to disagree with her. I told her so.
I swished around my mouthwash and spit it out, too. Like her advice.
I decided to drop it and get my kids ready for school. So I did.
The two blue bastard pills, Aleve, and a little HOPE kicked in. Maybe God was still here. After all, Emma has ten…count them ten, of those miraculous fingers. So does Jake. So do you. So does Dad.
So do I.
As I drove to the office, I flashed to a scene from The City: The Jane Harvest, where Isla looks in the mirror and wonders what those people, dead and gone, peering out of her eyes will see.
Will they like the sharp curve of her nose? Her high cheekbones?
Hopefully you’ve read the scene. If not, I suggest you do…you will never be the same. Never feel alone again. Ever.
I glanced in the rearview.
Will Dad look out my eyes, even after he’s gone, since he’s forever in that place in my heart? So deep. So wide, forever connected to me with an invisible wire that cannot be broken.
The same way your father is still connected to you. The way I hope that I am, too. The way you are inside of my heart, so entangled that I could never lose you…despite all proof to the contrary.
Because, after all, impossible is impossible, right?
I frown-smiled and tried to convince myself it was a real one. I felt a light pressure on my hand and knew you were there with me. Even though you weren’t. I thought of you…and really smiled, minus all frown.
If I could have seen, not just felt, you, I would have said, “Do you know that I am certain that when your father looks out your gorgeous, tender brown eyes, he sees the world with pride, with love, with certainty that he did right by you?”
How do I know that?
Because you are so good, only seeing the good in others even when all they display is their ugliness. I would have added that, “I know he sees Ravens, white butterflies, and green meadows.”
Why? Because that is what I see when I look out your eyes.
When you let me, anyway.
Will Dad see the same things through mine? Out Angel’s? Out Jimmy and Jeremy’s? Out Kim’s? His grandkid’s?
Will he learn how to look out the eyes of so many who loved him and see what they see? Do what they do? Love what they love? Even though…he was afraid to look out his own while he was alive. Even though…the booze got the best of him in the end. The booze…his fire-breathing Balrog of Morgoth.
Will he play a funky beat, mixing Linkin Park in perfect timing with Jimmy…despite his jaundiced sclera?
Will he change the accounting world with Angel and then rush home to party with an all-night Karaoke session singing, It’s My Life? Will he do the hip check move with his eldest daughter, at just the right time, like I would have if I had been there? Or maybe I am also there with them, looking through Angel’s hazel eyes and singing along…despite the ascites swish-swashing under the varicose veins on his abdomen?
And with Kim, will he whisper in her ear, that she can do it…she can stand on that public stage and speak her truth, despite her trembling hands, while he peers out her bright eyes…despite the gargantuan scrotum that obscures his phallus?
And will Dad see with Jeremy, while his youngest son draws the sixth King of Darkness, the shading just right. Just terrible enough. Just haunting enough…despite his Grey teeth?
Grey life…that might have been White.
Like Gandalf the Grey, facing down his Balrog. Booze.
How many realms will he spiral through as he battles it? How many eternities will he fall, not knowing that he is perfectly still? How many lives will he struggle, not realizing he has already won the war? How many mountains to slam, in his flat peaceful heaven? Snowstorms to travel through, on his eternally sunny days?
How many will it take?
How many lives will he create until he finally hits the bottom, forgives himself for some mistaken, self-berating crime called separation, which he never committed because he never could? Because it was impossible all along!
How many Grey lives?
How many for you?
How many for me?
For my Jake or Emma?
For your Father or Mother?
Until…he finally emerges as Gandalf the White? Until we all do.
Now I will tell you a secret…I can already see it now. The funeral. It’s just the few of us kids and relatives. Family plus an ex-wife. After all, funerals are for the family, not the dead. The dead are spiraling through their made-up hells battling a demon that doesn’t, which never existed, oblivious to the peace that is their birthright…beyond the illusion they mistakenly made.
Us, the left behind, thinking we are actually still alive…we will stand there. Some crying. Some laughing and telling stupid stories about the Furr’s days. The Straw Hat pizzas. The nutty Jehovah Witness door-knocking escapades. The blah, blah, blah.
But not me. I’ll be grinning.
Because I will know better. I will realize that we should be celebrating. And probably Jeremy will suspect that a party is more appropriate, since we look out the same eyes a lot more often these days.
Why, you ask again?
Because Dad will be one life closer to winning his imaginary war against the Balrog of his choosing. One life closer to becoming…the opposite of regret. The opposite of apology, disappointment, or failure. To becoming forgiveness. Peace. Truth. Pure freaking love on a lollipop…like he always already was. Yes!
And when he emerges in the third book… the final volume, all of us convinced that life, as we know it in Middle Earth is about to end. His battalion utterly convinced Sauron has finally won, that the dead and dark will rule the world, he will ride out brilliantly on that white horse of his. Shadowfax. The one that only he could ride.
Because he, like a vision of perfect bliss, perfect happiness, a cake-pop made of kick-ass awesomeness will save the day. Just like I knew in the second volume, he would. His Grey-shit routine of self-betrayal…finally over. After all, I never believed it. Not for a minute. Because I knew that a White wizard was on his way. A real wizard. Not a creepy bad guy in bed with the dark lord. A white lollipop delight!
I knew that Gandalf the White would save the day. My Dad, the final Knight come to take down a pretend King who was stupid enough to think that a ring would save him.
“Stupid dark King, don’t you know that rings are playthings?” I will scream. And Dad will clap because he will finally get me. Get this letter. Get that he was always a White Knight. You will get it too, I hope.
After all, he’s my Father and I can see through his eyes, too. And that’s why I already know, he is Gandalf the White. Only thing is, he doesn’t know it yet.
Just like you don’t. Like most of us don’t.
But I do, even though sometimes I forget and still think I’m a fucking mortal on a rolling ball of water and stone hurling through space. What a lie. What a matrix. What a bunch of illusionary bullshit.
We made it up. Did you know? Do you know. Yep… It’s a lovely little secret. If you’ll let me, I’ll tell you all about it.
Me, who is content from her forgiveness. Me, who is the white Bride of my golden King, wrapped safely in his poppy-soaked embrace…just like you, when they called you Klimt, painted me all those years ago.
Just like you painted us, I should say. Kiss. Kiss. Oh Kiss me again.
As the thought swirled, I grabbed my new coffee mug and gave it a squeeze.
Then I looked back up at my rearview and smiled, way too big for my face. My oversized brown eyes are lovely, and they will show Dad so many sparkling things after he pretends he is gone: My babies growing. My books as best sellers. My movies as box office smashes that really change people and make this a better freaking world for those that come behind us (still trying to learn what we already know and can hopefully tell them so they learn faster than we did). Jeremy a successful artist. Jimmy at peace with his demons. Angel having an easy day and a sleep-filled night. Kim, finally aware just how beautiful she is, inside and out.
Perhaps you, my Beloved, smiling back at me one day. Perhaps you holding me, like you do in that painting I love so much, after you have paid me back the interest I don’t deserve but will lovingly receive…because that is your way and mine.
Always has been.
I think, always will.
You the giving one. Me always the selfish one. Perhaps?
I smiled again and my eyes glittered, just like yours do when you show off that clever smile of yours. Billy’s smile, when he looks at his boots…so gorgeous. Blackwater’s when he looks so deeply in Elise’s eyes. Gaige’s smile when he finally tells Isla the truth about who she is and why she is the ONLY one who can save her City, all the Cities from the evil aliens.
Have you ever noticed how much my eyes look like yours? How we reflect the same colors in the corners of our photos.
In fact, sometimes I wonder if we have the same pair of eyes. Only two globes of sight between us. Oh how I wish we would look back between them in one of those mirrors that go on forever moments. We’ve had a few. Do you remember?
As I turned off my car, I couldn’t help notice the Raven in front of me, like always, grinned, knowing you were there, too. Like you always have been. Like I think you always will be. The part of you already White and loving me so brilliantly.
Like Dad always will.
Like your father always will, for you.
I placed my two fingers to my lips, raised them to the sky, and smiled once more knowing it would be a lovely day. This day of miracles. Of twenty fingers and twenty toes waiting for me when I get home. Of you, waiting for me when I fall asleep. You in my dreams, even on the days I forget you are there in my eyes. The White part of you who has already forgiven all my foolishness. Again, this life, like usual.
I blinked, teared-up a bit thinking about it all.
How much love I have in me.
How much love I know you have in you.
And thankful that soon, Dad will know how much love he had inside himself…even though he didn’t know it, couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t see it this lifetime.
But I do.
After all, Grey will do for now. White is on its way.
My dearest love, I am not regret. But I am contentment, so thankful for the gift of sight. Mine. Yours. And my father’s. Even though I’ll probably forget tomorrow. But the next day, I will remember again and it will be just as beautiful.
Cheers to seeing you… or at least your Raven soon,