LETTER TO MY FATHER
by Nicki Salcedo
Five years ago, I wrote a letter to my children. At the time, I had three children. The oldest was turning five, and I wanted to let them know my wishes and who I was and who I hoped to become. I never hoped to be grieving, but I am. Even though you’ve been gone three months, I still feel that I can get you back. We want you back with us.
Now I have four children. The baby asks Nana where you are. She is three and will be the likeliest one to forget you. She stands in your empty closet, above her four hangers dangle like stars. If I touch them they make the sound of bells. She wants to know when you are coming back. Nana tells her the truth, but the baby looks skeptical. For her there is no such thing as never. So she continues to wait.
The oldest sometimes stands at my side and hugs me. She looks up at me with sad eyes but a smile on her face. She is not yet 10. She will remember you the best. I wish my kids were older. I wish that they had more of you to remember. The oldest hopes she can heal me with her embrace. That’s what I’ve always taught her so it must be true.
The second one talks about you often. You are in her prayers. She likes to remember you when the rest of us try to forget. “Papa, used to read books with me.” If we could pick a legacy for you this would be it.
The boy is like a little man. He mentions nothing. He is like you. He keeps secrets. He did not cry at the funeral or before or after. The night you died he sat outside your bedroom. He did not go in. Maybe he could best sense your presence and your absence. He asked me if I could find pictures of heaven on the computer. I told him no. He paused, “Can you show me pictures of hell?” Again, I told him no. He paused once more, then whispered, “Can you show me pictures of the underworld?” I laughed until my sad tears were gone. I sat outside your bedroom on the floor with him. We looked at pictures of angels and demons and clouds and fire. Maybe he is like you. Maybe he is like me. He wants to see all the possibilities.
Your son-in-law has your winter coat. He put it on one day, and I marveled at how men of different stature could wear the same coat. He looked nice. I envied him. I waited until he left, and then I cried.
Everyone wants to know how mom is doing. We’re doing our best to fill the house with kids and noise and mess, but I don’t think it takes away Nana’s sadness. That’s okay. We are learning to love our sadness. I took her shopping, and she stopped in front of the bakery items. Her eyes stared for a long time at one thing, a blueberry tart. “He would have liked this,” she said. Her voice went back 48 years and all the days in between. “He would have liked this,” she said and bought the blueberry treat because she needed something in the house to make you happy.
I am the same as always. I laugh at inappropriate things. I wrote your obituary. The real one. The funny one. The one they wouldn’t send to the newspaper. They weren’t ready to laugh. They didn’t realize that neither was I.
Thank you for putting shoes on my feet. Thank you for telling me about the time you saw Robert Frost read poetry. Thank you for calling me Sugar and reading with my kids. Thank you and mom for rescuing me every day of my life.
Even though you were an avid reader, we never spoke about my writing. I wanted to give you a book filled with words I’d written. I’m sorry it took me so long. I hope you can read my book from heaven. It is for you. And mom. And the same with everything else I write. I learned one thing from you, words are important. Even if they are lies. Even if they are fiction.
Daddy, we miss you and we love you. We will see you in the firelight on a cold day. We will find you in the clouds of a blue sky. We will smile, even if we are sad inside.
Have you lost someone you loved? Can you write a letter to them? What about your children? What is more difficult to write words of fiction or words of the truth? Tell us in the comments.
About the Author:
Nicki Salcedo is a past contributor and good friend of the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. She is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America© and a Past President of Georgia Romance Writers. Nicki is a two-time recipient of the Maggie Award of Excellence and a Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Atlanta with her four children, husband, and a cat. Nicki’s debut novel, ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS, is a reversal on the beauty and the beast story with a touch of Southern Gothic and romantic suspense. You can find, follow, or friend her online @NickiSalcedo, Facebook, and http://www.nickisalcedo.com.