As I was spring cleaning my inbox, I found the 11-year-old message on the anniversary of her death. A forgotten story emailed to me from my mother. When I received it, I saved it in the folder, family, to read later. I would face the words another time. Time. If I only remembered, time was not a given.
The unspoken secrets about my father filled my childhood. The questions lingered around my universe. At school. At church. Who was he? Where was he? She told a child doesn’t need a dad. My best friend in elementary school told me that was not true. After consulting with her mother, she informed me of the birds and bees. Why didn’t my mom know that? She did, of course, but the secret floated around me throughout my childhood. Never landing on me.
I became a snoop researching the answer on my own. Digging through drawers in her bedroom. My digging produced a diary, revealing the photos stored away. I read the words over and over. Questions no longer needed.
When I became a mom, the desire to know more about him grew. The endless questions circled around me again. I asked her to email me the stories. After years of avoidance, speaking about him felt awkward for me. I think for you. Or just me. I told her I would read the stories when I felt ready. She wrote the words that filled in the blanks from her diary. I saved them. Then she passed away before she finished writing the stories. I waited too long. Or she did. What about him? We all did.
A friend of mine passed away late last year. A mother my age with a daughter, best friends. They reminded me of the relationship I had with my mom. Brought me back to those memories of her death 11 years ago.
When I’m feeling lost, I read her words from the saved emails. I saved them all, no matter how simple. “Don’t forget to pick up lunch on your way over.” She wrote the way she spoke, ending each letter “toodle-oo for now.” Until the final unanswered email, I sent, “Are you okay?”
As I browsed through her emails, I found the forgotten email. About him and them. The stories of him, their friendship, and love. As the Facebook generation would say, “It’s complicated.”
I admit I skimmed the email the first time. The words blurred on the screen as judgment and resentment overwhelmed me. Why didn’t she tell me when I asked as a young girl? I remember imagining I was E.T., abandoned by the mother ship on a foreign land.
With perspective and time removed, I read them as a reader opening a new book. The judgment and resentment faded away.
Maybe one day I’ll be brave to send him a letter.
The words I imagined:
I have a recurring dream of me and you walking in a garden. Did you know I like to garden too? I wish I had someone to teach and to guide me. Did you know I Iove to read like my mom? We could talk about books. I don’t leave books all over the house open to the page I left at, as she did. We could go to a Gophers or Vikings game. No one taught me the rules of the game. I figured it out on my own. What kind of beer do you like? I like Guinness.
I would like talk with you. To get to know you. I think you would like me. It would be nice if you gave me a chance.
Toodle-oo for now,
Photo by Amine Rock Hoovr on Unsplash