releasing regret: an open letter to my parents

What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices? (Hayden

20443_239317132812_2302655_nDear Dad,

I write asking for your forgiveness for a deep regret that haunts me.

When I was young, when I was stupid and selfish, I use to watch TV as a way to unwind. And you would come into the family room, sit in your green leather recliner, and then fold your long, muscular fingers dotted with patches of wiry hair up to your lips in a triangle-temple grip. A gentle gesture of internal prayer, perhaps.

And you would start to ask me questions. Questions about my day. School. Work. My friends.

And I was so annoyed. After all, I had had a very taxing day and I deserved to have some time to sit in peace, without thought or conversation. And I snipped at you. “Dad, I just want to watch TV. Do we have to do this now?”

Deflated, but never angry with me, you would sink into yourself, away from me, and eventually out of the room.

And then you got sick. Then you couldn’t carry on a conversation with me. Then, eventually, you didn’t even know who I was.

And I would sit with you in desperation to connect with the old, healthy, remembering you, asking you questions. You would answer with distracted and lost retorts, clearly buried so far in your diseased self that you could not find your way out.

And now I mourn. I linger in regret for all the conversations I missed with you because I was too tired, too consumed with TV.

Forgive me Dad. Release me.

I love you and miss you terribly,

Your daughter.

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Dear Mom,

I write to you asking for forgiveness for something I regret.

You beat breast cancer. Then it came back in your lungs. Then you beat that. You quit smoking. I was so proud of you. But I was also grateful, because I thought this meant you had chosen your family–you had chosen me–over your addiction, and that choice meant we would have more time to spend and more memories to make.

But you started smoking again. And you didn’t even tell me.

I was so angry. I held it against you. I withdrew, as I always do when hurt. But I also withdrew, because I surrendered to your choice to not be healthy, to not do everything in your power to extend your life. Withdrawing meant that our impending separation would be easier, didn’t it?

How foolish was I. By being bitter at your choice to smoke again, I wasted precious time–sand tumbling so quickly to the bottom of the hourglass I didn’t realize was so ephemeral–I could have had with you. Alone, I made meager memories of anger when I could have been making memories of laughter with you.

Forgive me Mom. Release me.

I love you and miss you terribly,

Your daughter.

Kathy Mattea