A young woman's letter to a cousin about a father lost.

Dearest Cousin Hannah,

As I caroused through the seemingly ponderous pages of my childhood scrapbook, I couldn’t help but notice something missing in those pictures; the sodden hollowness of truth: I have no father.

Two months ago, I heard on the phone from our cousin Jane from Chicago, who had heard a word about my father; she said, from Aunt Linda, that my long lost father was known to be in Asia, in Thailand—had been living there for sixteen years; she said. Cousin Jane, as you surely know, is one of my best friends, who owned to own my best interest at heart, which she never failed to demonstrate. And how she had all the information about her, indeed; she said, after all these years, about my father.

‘I want you to see him,’ she said, ‘I will go with you if you wish.’

I was taken aback on my part from such an unusually sudden and bold assertion from Jane, modest upon her bearing as she usually was. Then I told her what I had signified to her a few times before, that I, Dorothy, have come at the tender age of twenty five to peacefully accept the fact that, however you put it, I don’t have a father, and will know not my own father in this lifetime. And it wasn’t at all a big deal; I told her. ‘It is unnecessary,’ I spoke, ‘you know how I feel about the matter…’

But don’t you understand; Jane interceded, then she talked of living only once and having to take this chance, of which doors I know not what or where it opens to, and who knows; she said, this might be an opportunity for me to finally have a relationship with my own father. And after a few more sentimental utterances of this kind I was at last persuaded from adhering to my original resolutions. Daunting as it seemed to me, I couldn’t turn a blind eye upon the fact that, indeed, for the first time ever in my life, I have the knowledge where my father was, and, as what I thought was due, I ended up ascertaining a promise to Jane that I will look into visiting my father, and that I would stick upon my promise and have it seen done in four months, at the most. I felt the weighty bearing of such proceedings upon my shoulders the moment I hung up the phone, and apprehension and anxiety had at once plagued me like it never before had. Thus, I had resolved to have the trip to be concluded, at a time as soon as I could possibly arrange, in a week.

And so I have already gone and it had been a month since. Though something upon my vision of the world around me had changed, as if a leaden blur had been drawn before my conscious eyes, a breadth of hollowness, like how some phantasmal breath had carried, perhaps, my father away in this lifetime, out of my life--- this sense that something, that utter sense that I was missing something, remained upon my soul, and since that day when, upon first seeing, then, my father for the very first time, sitting on the kitchen table of a small, run down shack he called home, in the outskirts of Bangkok, and the very look of him; old, haggard, ugly and thin--- a drawing out of vacuum had as if occurred in my heart, and could never, with any goodness of heart, or a happy memory, be filled.

I was silent upon first laying my eyes upon him. But he sat still, never stirring from where he was. ‘You’re Dora?’ was all he said; dryly. But what with reality then, this foreign place, this unbearable heat, those unfamiliar sights and smells, and then my dad, like some insane apparition sitting on the table, cold, stern and marmoreal—I felt at once sad, for my life, for all the people in the world, and most of all, for my father. And I wished at once to get out from that dreadful shack he called home, that country, and how I longed to be back in that little snug apartment of mine in New York City; or, better yet, to be back where I was with myself before, before hearing anything from Jane about my father. I longed to be out of his sight from him, whom I considered the cause of my then crushing anguish, glistening silky red, like an iron melting, within my kindling chest. Indeed, I was overwhelmed that I couldn’t find words to say to him at all. For as if the sight of him, the look of him alone, sitting there, was enough, simply enough, enough to supply within me a well of affections of many different shades; enough for a meeting.

‘I wanted to see you.’ I finally found some words to say.

‘Well, here I am,’ he said, shrugging his shoulders, and motioned with his hands as if to present his own self, which implied to me as if he was somehow satirizing his own person, that there he simply was, just the fish he was in the sea.

I felt mocked. He was obviously not excited to see me. Who was this man but my father; I found telling myself. I knew nothing of him; a complete stranger. ‘Who are you?’ I wanted to ask him.

And all I knew from my late mother (bless her soul, she had died few years ago from breast cancer), was that my father, who was a doctor, had left us when I was only two years old (we lived in some Los Angeles suburb then) was gone one ordinary morning without a word, nor trace—a disappearance act which was to my mother worse than death—for never had she for all her life had any closures upon the subject, only pleadings and questions which she had carried to her grave.

Yet, as if answering to my question, ‘I have led a profligate life,’ he said.

A pause. ‘But I wanted to know,’ I said, for if anything I would have answers come from the mouth of my father himself, which would more or less be a form of closure upon my behalf—‘I wanted to know why—why you abandoned us.’

He leaned his elbows upon the table and rested his chin on his hands, ‘I don’t know exactly, kid. Perhaps I was stricken with some vague sense of wanderlust, perhaps I was just unhappy. I moved around America for a while, to San Francisco, to Boston, to Portland, then to Seattle, before coming and settling here in this dump. But here, you know, I could live in my old age like a king.’

Another pause; a silence. I couldn’t make up any sense but that I don’t like him, this man, my father, this stranger, whose blood runs through my veins. ‘Why?’ I wished to implore. I was speechless.

Though he knew from the look of bewilderment upon my face, or that blood, in a mutual sense, was thicker than water, that he somehow seemed to further establish, ‘Look here, kid,’ grabbing an empty glass and filling it with gin, ‘it’s not like I deny misgivings about the past. Oftentimes, in fact, I look back at the things that I had done, like resigning my profession as a doctor, and abandoning my family, and all that. And I, disappearing like a bubble bursting in the air—all lives are but bursts disappearing in the air--- anyhow, upon my soul, it pangs my heart even to this day how selfish a man I think I really am. All the time I was married, or even before then, and even while in med school--- throughout those many years I yearned for something else. I felt I was living a lie, a life I didn’t want to lead. I felt I was somehow being prodded on all along, like a tame sheep shepherded by my parent’s expectations of me as a young man, and, too, the society’s eye as if— oh, I don’t know. But I felt trapped. I wanted to break free.’ He was sipping at his glass of gin all the while. ‘That’s who I am,’ he continued, ‘I have always wanted to spend my time the way I want to spend it, and on my own means. I have very little money now left from what I have saved. I get little money from the government. Oh, kid, how could you forgive me, I am an ever unsurpassable selfish man I ever know.’

Then we had a little further talk about close matters. What happened to Therese, my mother? How on earth did I find him? It almost knocked him out of his chair; he said. He was gay; he said; had been a closeted homosexual all his younger years. Then I stayed for a hot tea, which was served by Ubon, his boyfriend, who appeared twice less his age. Then, as what felt right to me then, I simply made my sign to leave. And he emptied the bottle of gin as I was bidding my goodbye.

Anyhow, it had been a little over a week since then and what am I to say? I couldn’t hate nor love my father, for you see, I cannot help but regard him an utter stranger. The years apart seemed enough to form in me an emotional wall, a shell of indifference. He was right, he was a selfish man who followed the beckon of his selfish heart; a man of selfish nature. Sadness, though, I feel, for the lives of men in general, the perception of it—oh, I couldn’t get rightly at it. Though a sadness which, I know, by the least marks of affectations of goodness from friends like you (oh, how I’m ever proud to have friends like you), turns, over time, like wine fermenting into complex tastes--- human sadness, and fondness for that matter, matures into but an engrossing tearful joy, a much sweet bliss, and all the good emotions of life which you never fail to bring about with your infinite goodness and concern, to your most sad and joyous cousin, and your most dearly beloved friend, the lover of all things good,

Dora Brighton.

Submitted: September 03, 2013

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