As one year ends and other begins, it’s always good to take stock in the New Year of important values we still hold dear. Below is a letter I wrote 32 years ago to my very young daughter on New Year’s Eve. It reminds me of what’s important.

Our connections with children, whether our own or others, are preserved in a warehouse of memories. A transfixed scene, never really gone, comes to life again with recall of a bygone time or simply just a sight, sound, taste or smell that pull a recollection from that storage bin.

These are good to have since we cannot predict truly what the future holds for those relationships. I re-read this letter below each year to be ever mindful of life’s robustness and fragility, and what 60 seconds in our time with anyone can mean.

 

Dear Kathleen,

Christmas and New Year’s is a time for reflection for me, but more so this year, 1989, as your mom and I have agonized over a divorce. Since last February you have lived with her in West Hyannisport, Mass. I miss you tremendously, but the sadness and difficulty has shown me a special meaning of children and being a father.

Especially, though, I’ve come to know it as a single father in the past 10 months.

Children at any age are a gift. Although at two years old you can’t understand that yet, I want to tell you why you are so special to me. Many single fathers ignore their kids, and some don’t visit because of anger and hurt feelings. Yes, it was hard for me, too, but the joy you bring and my love just wouldn’t allow me to let go.

I’ve learned that sixty seconds in our time together is not to be taken for granted as people do so many minutes in life.

All at once minutes with you can be far too short and seem like an eternity. It is because we only spend 48 hours together only every two weeks, and I spend 12 of that 48 hours driving to get and return you.

You see, each minute of that drive has a specialmeaning in just waiting to hear your voice, your laugh, “dada, dada” that you say so often; to see your brown curls and blue eyes; and to feel your small hands in mine, and your soft kiss against my cheek.

The two minutes it takes to walk with you from the door of your house to the car lift me higher than man knows. You’re coming with me!

In the car we play games, talk and sing. At my house we read, play with wooden blocks, crawl in your plastic tunnel, swoop down your red slide, and go visit a lifesize Gumby. You laugh at him and talk back. We play with your crayons and markers and stuffed animals, especially Pierre, your white bear. Time passes so quickly.

On Saturday our time is very special. It is the only full day with you until 13 days later. In the evening I hold you in my arms until you fall asleep. Then for some time after I still hold you.

As you wake up on Sunday morning and call for me, I look at the clock. It is 6:30 a.m. and I know that I have only five and a half hours left until I have to take your bag, toys, diaper bag and milk to the car for our trip back. Laundry, dishes piled high in the sink, phone calls, the Sunday paper and other things can wait. We play.

 When it’s time to go and I walk out the door, with you in my arms or on my shoulders, a great surge of pain comes. Always a few tears come, too. I’ll miss you. The threehour ride seems like 30 hours.

After I pull the car up to the door of your home, I turn around to you in your car seat, look at your blue eyes, touch your forehead and gently kiss you. I tell you that I love you and miss you very much. You smile and say, “Daddy go to work now. Your mom comes out, says hello and gives you a big kiss, and then she takes you inside very quickly and without hesitation.

It’s very painful for her and I. We love you. We also can’t deal right now with so many feelings  love and hurt  about each other. In nearly five minutes the exchange is completed and I’m already turning the corner onto the highway for the three hours back to Connecticut.

Instinctively I look in the rearview mirror to make sure you’re safe in your car seat, then realize you’re gone. The emptiness is jarring, but I remember how much I love you and that I’ll be back soon.

In this single moment I’m always reminded of the how much it means to be with you and be your father. It’s a gift I’ll treasure forever.

 

Love Ya,

Dad

XXX/OOO

 

Writer’s Note: Little did I know these words in the future would have a twist never imagined.

Kathleen has been gone now for nearly 20 years. She shut down all communication with me for reasons she has never explained. The divorce with her mother in the years after this letter became ugly and contentious, also something I never imagined.

Proms, boyfriends, college graduation, her marriage - have all come and gone without me seeing them. Again, events and people I never imagined I’d miss.

Of course I feel the pain and her loss every day, but a timeless lesson jumps to me, too.

It is about living in the here-and-now of each minute. A time clock was running. People, places and things whose in-the-moment connections we want forever don’t really last that long. A time’s-up buzzer goes off for reasons we may be unable to control or stop.

Kathleen remains, though, ever strong and present in my heart. Deep love with anyone makes it that way.

No matter how children of any age leave a parent’s life, whether by their choice in some way, the tragedy of death, psychological and emotional distancing or simply growing up, those minutes together in a memory can bring comfort.

Despite my longing to see Kathleen again, I am glad I feel the pain of it. With that longing, I know I felt that grand and fulfilling feeling called love, so much a part of living my own life.

In the New Year for those still bundled by feelings of loss, a fresh start can begin with seeing loss and love differently. Finding love in that memory of minutes together can bring ease and help keep someone present in a new way. It is there for you to go get.

Write to Bill Seymour, freelance writer covering news and feature stories, at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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