My father and I became estranged when I was fifteen, when I wrote a letter to the courts explaining why I didn't want to attend visitation with him anymore. He never met my husband. He wasn't invited to my wedding. And he died two months afterwards, a couple days after Christmas 2006. In between that time, right around my senior year of high school and into my first years of college, I tried to mend fences. I wrote him letters. I sent him three framed copies, a set, of these linoleum block presses I'd made. I had carved into the blocks a fishing scene with two people in a boat, my most treasured memory of the two of us on the Quabbin Reservoir when I was kid. He was high, but it was just the two of us, and he was so nice to me that day. I'll never forget it. I never received a reply, but grapevine messages that my paternal grandmother thought I was an ungrateful, hateful girl. For all I know, that's how my father thought me, too. He never wrote back to me. As in ever.
When he died, he didn't leave a will, and there was no sign of the presses or any of the letters I wrote him. Nothing. I'll never know if he received any of them.
Today -- or rather, Last Night:
It's no secret that I dream strong. They're the initial source of my stories, my writing. My dreams are vivid and colorful. There are smells, actual smells where I'll wake up and look for the cause of the smoke in my nostrils. And taste. Do you ever taste things in your dreams and it's not the memory of the taste, but The Taste? I do. Although, I'll admit it's rare.
Last night, I was cleaning out my grandfather's house. My grandfather passed away a few years ago, something I still feel, and his wife, my granny very recently passed away, so in the dream I was putting their home to rest. I found a secret bedroom in an elevator (because it was a dream), and along with my grandfather's real estate secrets (apparently, he bought and sold Grange halls and Odd Fellows halls -- again: dream) were my father's affects.
As I went through the framed pictures on my father's dresser, I was so so hurt because he didn't have one of me. The pictures were old, from when the four of us kids were, well, kids, but it was as if I didn't exist. Graduations, holidays, frolicking snowy days -- it was as if I'd been wiped clean. And it made me realize that I was the ungrateful, hateful daughter my grandmother always said I was.
Then I came across a folder, tucked under the happy moments and shrine to my siblings, mixed in among Grandpa's real estate secrets. They were letters, unsent by my father, to me. It was his handwriting, which, despite not seeing for nearly two decades, I still recognized immediately. The paper was thin, translucent even, and the pen -- blue ballpoint -- was so faded and fat to be almost completely illegible, but they were his. And those illegible words were to me.
I didn't read them, at least not in their entirety, because it was so difficult. The date on the most recent one read 2005. I remember thinking in the dream, but this is 2016! That's a full 11 years since he last tried to write to me! And a twinge of that ungrateful, hateful daughter came to me. That's how he saw me. But then I noticed the post-it notes stuck to the corner of each letter. The post-it on the corner of the 2005 letter read, "I'll send her this one."
It was so clear, in that moment, that he had been trying to reach out to me, but he couldn't because he was my father, and I was his daughter, and things were so very complicated between us.
I awoke this morning with my alarm. As in fiction, so in real life, it interrupted the dream. It wasn't until I was standing in the bathroom smoothing my hair, puzzling over why the last letter he wrote in the dream was from 2005, that I remembered he died in 2006. And that difference, isn't so very big after all.