Hummingbird: A Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

I've started at least ninety letters to you, in the nine years you've been gone; each letter deeper and different than the last. Each letter never complete. I'm ready to finish this time, Dad. This is the one. With my words, I'd like to take you by the hand as we look out over the landscape of my thoughts and the layout of my life. I am speaking to you with an open heart, I hope you can hear me with an open soul, wherever you are...

Dad, when you died, I was certain I'd never forgive you for leaving me. I was certain you were angry with me, that I was bad, that you faked your own death just to get away from me. I was certain I wouldn't remember the way I used to look at you when I was a little girl. I was certain I'd never be able to forget how hard it was to be your Daughter the last 5 years of your life. How your deteriorating health and your broken spirit was too much for me and I didn't know what to do. I didn't recognize you. After you died, I was certain I'd close my eyes and only see your sad, lost, hopeless, lonely brown eyes. I tried not to think about you for a while.

Dad, I now realize none of those certainties could possibly be true, because even and especially in your absence, you take such good care of me. You keep giving me the freedom and the room and the time and the resources and the compassion and the courage and the love to become who I am meant to be. My life has looked like anything but the single, straight, direct line of purpose I thought it ought to be.

Dad, you've given me the most wild opportunity to become a Hummingbird; free to move from tree to tree, flower to flower, field to field, trying this, trying that. I bring an idea from here to over there, where I learn something else, leave it in the night and take to something different. I am an acrobatic flyer, Dad. I can go backwards and upside down and I can change direction. I've created an incredibly rich and complex Hummingbird existence for myself, Dad. You'd be so proud.

Dad, my Hummingbird tattoo reminds me of some things- it reminds me that sometimes dying is the answer; sometimes people have to leave, to make space for something else that otherwise wouldn't be there. Sometimes death brings us back to life, grief paves the way to joy, pain helps us know comfort when we see it, fear helps us know love when we feel it. This hummingbird tattoo, much like my grief, was the most beautiful, uncomfortable, and worrisome open wound I could imagine. Over time, it has healed. Daddy, I have healed. 

Dad, my Hummingbird helps me remember you; your small, soft hands with the scar on your palm from when you were ten and foolish. The hands that used to gently brush and blow dry my hair when I was little. The hands that held the giant, whiny video camera in the front row of every talent show. And the hands that held up a box of tampons in the store and shouted, "Price Check!" and I'd hide my face with my hands and want to die.

My tattoo helps me remember the sound of your voice; the voice that told me wild and made-up stories of far away places, (like Woodstock). The voice that taught me about the laws of buoyancy, the voice that did an amazing "Ursula", when we'd reenact The Little Mermaid in under 30 seconds. Don't pretend you don't remember.

My Hummingbird reminds me of that time you picked my up from school and I was crying and I said I have no friends and you sat next to me on the wooden, splintered bench and you looked at my eyes and you said, I your friend.

 My tattoo makes me remember how wonderful but scary and dangerous it is to be the absolute and the one and only in someone's life, like I was for you.

Dad, this Hummingbird lets me forgive you, for all the times you were frustrated and impatient and unkind and the times you harshly tested my love for you and the times you made me doubt your love for me.

Mostly, Dad, my Hummingbird makes me promise that

where I am selfish, I'm gonna be giving.

And where I am fearful, I'm gonna be brave.

And where I am wrong, I'm gonna be right.

And where I am dark, I'm gonna be light.

When I look at my arm, I can know that

yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong. 

Yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong. 

Yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong.

Lastly, my beautiful, colorful, incredibly permanent, watercolor Hummingbird tattoo urges me to be in relationship with the ages, in honor of my ancestors and in service to my descendants.

Dad. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the most beautiful wings to become the Hummingbird I am meant to be. Thank you for leaving me in physical ways and for staying in soulful ones. I love you and I feel you and I honor you more and more, every day.

All my love, for all my life, with my whole heart, forever and ever and ever...

-Erica


The Way We'll Be

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A letter from me, to my Mother, just before I was born...

Mom,

   I know, I'm late; I've needed every bit of these last forty weeks, and ten days, to prepare for what lies ahead. Thank you for your patience and for understanding I like to take my time to think about things. I wasn't supposed to, but I peaked a few times to see what's in store for us, and while we're on our fourteen-hour parade through labor, I'd like to share with you some things I've come to know...

First, I know I'm going to be an only child. I know your marriage will not last long enough to give me a sibling. I know I will have a very difficult childhood and I also know that you won't enjoy Motherhood for very long, before your marriage falls apart.

Mom, you won't be the only one who suffers through this. I will feel alone a lot. I will be alone a lot. It will be isolating and confusing being raised in two separate households, living two separate lives, with two very different people and two sets of beliefs and rules around food. I may need a lot of therapy from a young age and it will take me time to access my thoughts and feelings and this may be frustrating for you.

Mom, I'll have a hard time on the playground, relating to my peers. I will find it easier and safer hanging out at the 'grownup table', hearing very grownup things. This will no doubt take away from the potentially carefree, spirited and simple qualities of my childhood, yet, ironically, I will spend a great chunk of my career life working with children and finding bits of the childhood I missed, through watching theirs. And because I will have an extensive background and comfortableness with older and wiser generations, I will be successful working with parents and several of my closest friends will be considerably older than me. This will make me a better friend, a more compassionate human being. All will not be lost, Mom.

Mom, one of my favorite pastimes will be looking at old photos of you. They will remind me that you are every bit as human as I; that you've had your own youth and that there was a time I was not with you or even a thought in your mind. It will be important for me to acknowledge this and it will help me better understand your reasoning for things, especially when you have trouble understanding mine.

Mostly, I'll love to look at yours and Dad's wedding video and album, often. I will spend rainy days, sunny days and several birthdays looking at this album, secretly trying to piece together what went wrong for you and Dad in such a short amount of time. I will, on a deep level, understand your divorce, AND I will also long for the family structure I will not have.

Mom, I'm going to feel disappointed in you, a lot; you won't be able to drop me off at many extracurricular activities. I won't see you at many of my recitals and talent shows, because you'll be working. You won't know the names of the parents who's children I hang out with and this will bother me. Alone, I'll walk to and from school everyday, wishing I was dropped off and picked up like everybody else. Your being a single mother will heavily impact the love you are capable of showing me and the love I'm able to feel from you.

You need to know that my relationship with food will heavily reflect my relationship with you and I will struggle with disordered eating for many, many years.

And eventually,

my relationship with food and my relationship with you will heal and I will navigate my way through recovery. Only then will we build trust and genuinely enjoy one another, and it will be clear why we couldn't have that closeness any other way, at any other time.

Mommy, it's been really fun in here; I really love how happy and upbeat you are. I love how much you like to move, except when we took that giant spill off the stage, while you were teaching Jazzercise, at seven months pregnant. I get it; sometimes we're just so excited, we forget where our feet go...happens to me ALL the time! You're very loud and you have a weird accent and you eat lots of chocolate. You laugh a lot and this helps sharpen my nervous system so much.

Mom, thank you for sharing your space with me, for taking such good care of me and for wanting me so bad. Thank you for letting me wiggle and twirl and flip and kick and dance with you. Thank you for letting me take my time.

Mom

I'm so glad I'm yours.

I like you,

I adore you,

I love you.

Also, just a heads up, I accidentally pooped just now and my cord is wrapped around my neck so I'll probably need our team to come and get me soon...

Love,

Erica

My Daughter Dreams of India

dad*A letter from my Dad to the Universe*

To whom this may concern,

I write to you this evening in the hopes your infinite wisdom can help me. My Daughter, Erica, will be traveling to India tomorrow and there are some things I need you to know, before she embarks on her first journey out of America...

The night before Erica turned eighteen, she was very upset. Her tears fell hard and fast, as she told me how scared she was to turn eighteen. She realized that in the eyes of the law, she would now be an adult and she was afraid. What does being an adult mean? I asked. She said it meant I didn't have to take care of her anymore; that I could throw her out on the street, if I wanted to. That I could abandon her, legally. She said if she accidentally broke the law, she'd "no longer qualify for Family Court" and she'd most certainly be tried in criminal court. (She's so cute.) She said being an adult was a huge privilege and she couldn't imagine herself taking on such a responsibility. She felt that from here on out, life would blindside her, ambush her, hurt her.

Before Erica was born, I thought of the things I'd be afraid of as a parent; how I'd be able to financially support the lifestyle I wanted to give her, how safe she would be in her car seat--which I tested fifteen times before she was born, by slamming on my brakes, almost giving myself a concussion.-- I had all my fears and concerns in check, but I never considered what my Daughter would be afraid of. What would be the things that keep her awake at night? I didn't know she'd have an innate fear of being abandoned. I didn't know she'd come to believe she is unworthy of love and belonging.

I listened fully and attentively to my soon-to-be-eighteen girl that night. I assured her that only good things can come of being an adult. I told her life is never just thrown at us. I said that as opportunities and responsibilities come, she'll already be ready for them. I said, Life is gradual. Life is a process. She took a choppy deep breath and said, Okay, Dad. I believe you.

Two years later, I died. And life for my child was not, as I'd promised, gradual.

Although she was thoroughly heartbroken and in excruciating pain, I wish I could say I worried for her; that I thought she couldn't survive without me. But I didn't. My Daughter knew exactly what she needed to do and she's done it. She sold our house and made a new home for herself by the sea. She went to school to earn her degree. She's easy with her love and sees the gifts and power in her vulnerability. And now, she's going to India, with her best friend, Hailey. As a parent, I couldn't wish for a better travel buddy.

Erica often feels afraid, yet she keeps showing up. For every doubt that she is worthy, she takes at least three new chances. For every moment she believes she's forgettable, there are ten people who can't imagine life without her, and they tell her so. She is sensitive and tough. My Daughter is very much interested in life. That's who she is. That's my girl.

So, Universe, for this adventure, my wish for Erica is to abandon the mental and emotional ways she's kept herself safe. May she let go of the relationships, the fears and the beliefs that have kept her small, and gently take down the walls she's put up, protecting her from being heartbroken, the way she was when I had to leave. I want her to ride the elephants and do the Yoga, as she's been saying. I want her to allow this once in a lifetime adventure to wash over her, around her, through her. Mostly, let her laugh; it's my favorite sound.

Tell her I'll know she's arrived safe and sound, because I just know those kinds of things. She must know that I am with her, that she is my front row seat at her Talent Show. She needs to remember that she is not OF my greatness, she IS my greatness. She is expansive, brave and authentic in ways I could have never been.

Tell her I am always accessible to her and always have been. Show her that in life, the only way out is not through, but rather, in. Remind her not to worry what to do with her life, but rather what her life is doing with her. Emphasize that she's always had everything she needs to not only survive, but thrive. Also, please remind her to drink bottled water, check in with her Mother and don't talk to strangers.

Thank you for taking care of my little girl.

Sincerely,

Larry Jacobs