A letter I actually sent to my father, August, 2005. We haven't spoken since:
I have received your letter, dated January 9, 2005, as well as your voice mail of January 19, 2005. Since there seems to be some confusion on your part as to your obligations to take care of your mother’s affairs, I want to make this perfectly clear. When we last spoke, you assured me that you would be responsible for all matters relating to her care. Indeed, several months ago, you specifically told my mother that you were now “handling Grandma’s bills.”
Since that time, I have properly assumed that you were now accepting your rightful responsibility to take care of your mother and her continuing stay at Cedars. As I am sure you will agree, any reasonable person would assume that this division of responsibilities is both right and just. You are her son. I am merely her grandson. Nonetheless, for years I assumed the very heavy burden of taking care of her, making certain that she got the care she needed, and trying hard for several years to keep her off of Medicaid, at my own considerable expense, believing that she would have been mortified had she known she was accepting government assistance.
Now you come to me asking me to take on her care again. Quite simply, the answer is no. As an initial matter, I am no longer in a position to spend extravagant sums of money and time taking on responsibilities that are not my own. In addition, I have already spent tens of thousands of dollars, and countless hours, shouldering a burden that was rightfully yours to begin with. I did so on her behalf, not yours, and I did so without complaint, with no appeal for help, from you or others.
I am confident that you can do at least as well as I did. You have never made any secret of your belief in your own abilities, and you have repeatedly paid lip service to the concept of “family.” To paraphrase one of your favorite Chicago stories, “What kind of son would you be if you didn’t take care of your own mother?”
Clearly, you’ve already answered that question when it comes to your sons. Unlike Mayor Daly, taking care of your sons when they needed a father never seemed high on your list of priorities. I was disappointed in January when you turned your back on me for what I intend to be the last time. Disappointed, but not surprised.
I now call on you to surprise me when it comes to your mother. Accept your familial responsibilities, even at the cost of your own inconvenience. Take care of her. Make certain that she is safe and comfortable. Be a good son. Be a man.
I will tell you that Anne and I made arrangements for cremation at Williams & Teague in Charlottesville a number of years ago. Before we could fully fund the arrangements, I found myself taking on a steadily increasing percentage of her monthly payments to Cedars, and could not afford to make the final payment, which I believe to have been in the neighborhood of $1,500.
As for your request for assistance regarding the Suntrust account, I do know that there is such an account. I have not kept track of it for some time, since it is no longer my job. And while I could make an effort to help you, I remind you that -– as far as you (and Wanda) are concerned –- we are no longer father and son; we are “independent.” As a result, I expect that you will be able to make the appropriate inquiries to answer your question on your own. If you can’t, I am certain that you will step up to the plate financially to make certain that no harm comes to her.
It will be good for you, Dad. It will give you the chance to own up to your family obligations, rather than turning your back on them yet again. As a veteran jury trial lawyer, I can tell you one simple, undisputable fact: words mean nothing in the face of cold, hard evidence to the contrary. While you’ve repeatedly claimed “family” as your highest value, it has, in fact, consistently taken a back seat to your own interests –- most sadly, your pathological need to have a woman in your life at all times, no matter how undesirable she may be. You’ve had three wives, and five children, none of whom have turned out well. A reclusive, bitter son in Texas, two strippers, a disturbed, somewhat aimless youngest son, and an eldest son whose entire life has been filled with misery from trying to please you. An enviable record for any welfare father. Truly remarkable for an educated, self-professed family man. The evidence doesn’t lie. And it’s not entirely your children’s fault.
I wish you luck in dealing with your outstanding “action items.” They are no longer mine. Since you were supposedly handling this situation since last January, the resolution of these matters is long overdue.
This has not been an easy letter for me to write. I am quite certain you will be furious, and write me off as a son and a person for the rest of your days. If there has been one defining feature in my life, it has been my overwhelming need to live up to your expectations, to please you, and to win your affections. This past year, however, I have come to the painful conclusion that these goals have always remained beyond my reach, and –- worse -– they always will. I now find that any contact with you, even in writing, cripples me emotionally, devastates my self-confidence, and ruins any chance I might have at happiness. I deserve better, and I am trying to work towards that goal now.
One final note. In the unlikely event that you are unable to arrange for appropriate assistance and payments to take care of your mother’s health care – and if, despite the ample resources at your disposal, you find yourself through some fluke unable to make up the difference on your own, as I did for years – let me know, and I will try to help. I don’t want any harm to come to Grandma, and if you are truly unable to prevent that from happening, I will try to do what I can.