One year ago, I published a letter on my blog: On My Father’s Birthday, A Letter to The Man Who Killed Him. It was Freshly Pressed and had nearly one thousand hits, in a few days. It was published in Huffington Post and was huge there too. People sent the most amazing responses from all over the world. They shared their own stories of loss, grief, and forgiveness. Many told me I was incredible, for forgiving. Others understood my true intentions. Still, others thought the title of the post was misleading: the man I was writing to wasn’t really a killer, per se; they felt duped. Publishers in Australia and Europe asked to repost it; many other bloggers shared it. I was named a “Voices of the Year 2015” by BlogHer and SheKnows Media, based on the piece, an enormous honor and a boost I needed as I processed so many thing. It was posted the same weekend that my first piece was published in Huffington Post–– an entirely different kind of post. Many of those readers thought I was anti-Palestinian, a killer of babies, a “Jew lover.” I am that; I could not love my husband and children more–– they are Jews. The point being: two very different posts, and two entirely different outcomes.
But the piece about my father was deeply personal, while it garnered all kinds of reactions and accolades, I did not write it with any of that in mind. I wrote it to heal. That letter was the first time I put down in words, my own efforts to really move forward. It’s been more than 40 years since my father was killed; one could argue that I should have forgiven and moved on a long time ago. I would agree with that. However, in my defense, I’ll say it again: there is no expiration on grief. That single loss has followed me my whole life. It has defined me in many ways, and I was finally ready to be in a new place with that reality. I did not write the letter, which became a blog post, to be Freshly Pressed. I did not write it to be praised by so many strangers. I did hope that maybe the man I wrote it to, or someone he knew, would see it, and we would both have closure. But I didn’t write it to be praised. I don’t see myself as anything other than a girl who still misses her father, a woman who has grieved, a person on my own private journey. The fact that all of those other things happened, is just the how life unfolds.
However, all of that did happen. Life unfolds because of how each unique pebble lands on the water. The ripples make waves; the waves bring things to shore. In the year since that letter was posted, a lot has changed. In seeking to move forward, in writing one letter, I learned there were other things to learn, other things to be written. That one post opened me up to hearing truths about my father that I had never heard. It was painful stuff to hear–– not for what I found, but for what I lost. I was faced with hard truths, that changed almost everything. I spent weeks digesting and mourning the years I’ve spent focused on untruths. I went away for 9 days to process it. I walked for miles on the beach. I raged against my own ignorance, and I raged against the lies I was told. I let myself feel the grief that was under all of that rage. Anger is a chameleon, often hiding much more vulnerable emotions.
In the end, there is no going back. I spent much of my childhood wishing that I could wiggle my nose and turn back time. I wished I could sprinkle some fairy dust and change the outcomes. I prayed that I could be good enough, strong enough, special enough… to turn it all around. Then I stopped praying; I stopped wishing, and life just move on. That’s what happens, when reality sets in. We move forward, even if we haven’t “moved on.”
This year, it all looks very different. On November 29, 2015, my father would have turned 74. He’s still gone, but I’ve come a long way in healing and figuring out new paths for this journey. Some days, it’s a big ball of dark, sticky, mess to work through, and some days I feel stronger and more grounded than I ever have. My story, my life is my own. I don’t write it down to make a good story. I don’t write it for recognition, awards or feedback. I don’t write it for others at all. I write it for me, and because I’m a writer, I put it out there. It can mean whatever it means to each person who reads it, but it’s what it means to me that matters the most. Last year I wrote a letter to the man who killed my father; this year is different. It’s one year later, and my eyes are open.
This has been an incredible year, and you have been on my mind more than ever. For the first time in my life, that’s a good thing, not the misguided longing I carried for so many years. I feel like the bottom fell out, and there you were, and yet, there you weren’t. Now I get it, and that carries great healing, as well as new reasons to grieve.
I think I understand much more clearly who you were, not just the stories that I relied on. Hearing the truth: that you loved us, that you never let us go, that you fought for us, has been a revelation. Despite the pain that came with it, I feel lighter, blessed to know that my heart was right. I feel relieved to know that the things I felt, the memories I had, were real… It was the reality that I was fed that was broken, not me. After a lifetime of feeling abandoned, I feel loved; I feel found.
At this point in my life, much older than you ever got to be, I’ve had to work through my anger as well. I’m angry that I’m a 52 year-old woman, and only just figuring some things out. I’m angry that lies were my compass, and I never understood why I was off course. I’m sad that I missed the chance to feel love that was offered, because I was scared and confused. I’m bitter that I didn’t see the truth, for myself. And more than anything, I’m sorry for how all of that clouded my love for you, and my ability to share that with others.
I miss you. All these years later, I miss you in new and unexpected ways. I miss having grown up with the love that was right there, if I had only known. Even in your absence, I would have given anything just to carry your love with me. I miss having felt your love, and having felt free to love you back. I miss all that we didn’t get to share with each other. I miss you.
I love you, and more importantly, I finally know just how much you loved me. I don’t feel like a silly kid who just created stories to feel better, I feel like a kid who was loved… and who lost someone very precious. Thank you for loving me so much, dad. Thank you for being present when I was scared. I remember now. Thank you for your presence even now, I feel it. Thank you for loving us so much that you were willing to do whatever you had to do, to take care of us and show us that we had a whole family of people who loved us. Thank you.
Happy Birthday! It’s hard to believe that you would be 74 years old this year! You will forever be 32, 29, 21, 18, 16, 2… the ages you were in the few photos I have. I study those photos, looking for you, looking for me, looking for the things I don’t know. I look at those photos hoping to see something I’ve missed. But you just smile back, our dad, my mother’s spouse, your mother’s son, my aunts’ brother; a cousin, a grandson, a friend… it’s their stories that bring the photos to life… and my filtered memories.
Happy birthday, for all the years we shared and all the years we lost. Happy birthday, for the man you were, and the man you might have been. Happy birthday for loving me and for knowing that I loved you in return. Happy Birthday for each of the people you touched, and the marks you left on our hearts. This year, I’m not thinking about the man who killed you, or the events that shaped our lives, I’m thinking about you. I’m missing you and loving you. I’m celebrating your birthday with joy, with love, and with peace. Happy birthday dad; I love you.
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Help Me Reach My Goals! KAPOW! The Tales From the Motherland Facebook page recently hit the 2015 goal of 800 likes (which I set after hitting the 700 mark)! I’m going big for the next year and aiming for 1,000!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam. ©2015 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit; plagiarism sucks!