Dear Mom and Dad:
How does one write a letter on a Christmas Eve to parents dead more than 38 years without sounding maudlin? Considering how very much I still miss you after all these years, it probably won't be easy, but I'll try.
I wanted to say thank you not only for the gift of my life, but for all the countless sacrifices, large and small, you made to raise me, educate me, and send me--however reluctantly--off into the world. I could never, in twenty letters, enumerate them all. Though you were never wealthy, or even well off, you both worked hard all your lives to see that I never wanted for anything of real substance.
I am so incredibly sorry that it took me so very long to realize just how much you loved me, and that I did not tell you every single day how much I loved you. I apologize sincerely for the pain I caused you in lashing out at you simply because I knew I could; because I knew I could be as mean and spiteful to you as I wanted to be and you would still love me.
Mom, how could I ever possibly repay you for giving me my love of words and my senses of humor and irony. You nourished not only my body, but my imagination, and gave my soul wings to soar above reality.
Dad, I only wish that I could have appreciated how hard you tried to teach me how to be a man as you saw a man should be. I admit that much of what I learned from you was how not to act--that there were rules of being a man you adhered to that I did not have to apply to myself. That we fought so hard for so many years, and that I did not see how frequently and deeply I hurt you, is one of the greatest regrets of my life.
But it wasn't until I began to realize, through some strange form of mental osmosis, that you were not just "Mom" and "Dad" but "Frank" and "Odrae"--individual human beings as flawed as anyone else--that my appreciation for who you were and what you went through on my behalf really began. But because it was such a slow process, you were gone before I had the chance to act on that realization and react to you as people.
I really do not want to go into specific memories here--there are so many. Even setting aside those involving disagreements and arguments and unhappiness and anger, there are so many more of warmth and love and joy and the sense of belonging that were I start to remember them now, I'd be unable to continue writing.
So let me just say that it is only now, so very long after you've both gone, that I can fully realize and comprehend how deeply and totally and unconditionally you loved me. They say you never fully appreciate something until you no longer have it, and it is all too true. You did your best to let me walk in the sunshine, and the warmth of your love still envelops me. Though I cannot believe in a traditional
God, or in a Heaven or a Hell, I do hope that these words might somehow reach you and let you know how much you meant...how much you mean...to me.
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