I’ve been writing lately. A lot. Letter form. To one of my daughters.
I heard an interview on NPR with Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, about the book they co-authored, that was almost entirely an email dialogue between them about subjects they, in all their lives together, never discussed. The purpose to was to ‘say’ things without censoring and judgment. I liked the interview and decided to read the book, which I finished. I am still surprised by what they had never shared with each other – some subject matter was never even broached – especially considering who they are; family lineage and history. It just showed me that no matter who you are, we are all basically the same.
In the past couple of decades I’ve sporadically attempted to write my history in either letter form or a memoir thinking at some point I’d give it to or leave it to my children. I didn’t stick with it. It just didn’t seem important. But now I think the importance is maybe just for me. Maybe they are not interested in details. Or maybe sometime later or maybe if/when they read the letters they’d be more interested. Either way, if the letters are never read ~ and I will admit, I’d be disappointed ~ I know I’d have at least attempted to ‘have my peace’ (or is it piece?).
I wrote the first letter about a month ago. I let the subject of whether or not it was read just linger. Then I asked my daughter, ‘just curious’, she said she hadn’t read it. Then I waited a couple more weeks and inquired again, ‘no big deal but..’. Again, no. Then I just wrote more (three thinly spaced pages…front and back) and left them near her bed. Waited. Two days later…still ‘no’.
So, okay, maybe she’s not interested (despite the fact that I shared with her the interview, book, the reason that I thought it would be ‘kinda cool’ to share things, all without judgment and she agreed) or she’s afraid of what she thinks I wrote. I don’t know. She’s a big reader so it’s not that she hates reading. She has time to read and watch TV so it’s not that she’s too busy. Since the whole project is a ‘judgment free’ exercise I can’t fault her for not participating. That’s when I decided that I’d keep writing and she can read them or not or give them to her siblings or burn them. I guess I do care but I can’t concern myself with it anymore. I feel it would help her with her problems; she can vent about what bothers her and get some advice and not, strictly speaking, ‘talk’ to me about it.
I guess that’s how it happens. Anderson and Gloria never discussed his brother’s (her son’s) suicide because one wanted to talk but the other did not – so it didn’t happen between them. And that seems so strange to me considering who they are – personalities with big lives who have a lot to share. There are things that I would also have a difficult time speaking about but half the battle with sharing difficult topics is having someone that wants to listen.
I have this disconnect between myself and my children. It seems to widen as I (and they) get older and it’s a little hard to endure. I blame myself for most but not all. I do try to communicate but they seem very disinterested and that makes me feel under-valued. What makes this situation all the more harder is that I don’t have anyone else to share my personal details with (little stuff like work or more intimate stuff too) and I’m not trying to substitute any of my children for a spouse or partner. I just feel more like a distant relative or family ‘friend’ that’s occasionally (barely) tolerated.
Writing (and photocopying, I’ve decided, because I can’t remember what I included in the letter before) the letters is my way of telling them where I came from, why and how I got to be who I am, why I’ve made the decisions and mistakes I have, what I regret and how I feel. I’ll have had my say and it won’t have done one bit of good in my lifetime except to have ‘said it’. It would be sad if she stows the letters somewhere and doesn’t get to them until I’m worm food only to realize that she wished she had read them – and we talked.
You can only do what you can do. The rest is up to someone else.
*note: this was suppose to ‘publish’ on Saturday, 5/14, at 0930 and did not*