Dear Dad…

I was looking at some letters I’d sent you on Fathers Day in the past few years, and it made me wonder why I don’t write you more often. You know, aside from the fact that you’re dead and all.

1989 is a long time ago now, but whether my letters are five minutes late (as I was for our last hospital visit), or thirty years late, the mail must get through somehow, right? I’ll write to your ghost, wherever you are.

Some people believe in an afterlife – heavenly or hellish planes where you are rewarded or punished according to the net positive or negative balance on your books when you die. That always sounded like bullshit to me, even as a kid. I was proud to know that you had the same opinion. I probably learned it from you anyway.

Did you really ever believe in god? You said that you did, but I never saw any evidence of spirituality or mystery in you. You called our family Agnostic, which was never properly explained to me. In fact, it took me many years of reading to decide that it was, for us, just another word for atheist, in a world that would not look favourably on that idea.

I think you shunned the religious orientations of your parent’s generation. I think your family was Protestant, because we have one old Protestant bible that probably came down from some Love family bookshelf. Your mum and her sister were religious and talked about and sang to God, but it really seemed like some kind of power struggle for you. Was it that way for the Love men? Was it pride? Was it a rebellion from old values? Were your brothers that way too?

You always seemed to chafe against the institution of religion, and you personally resented its agents when they came to your door. So, while I was a kid, living with you, I could count on one hand the number of times we went to church. The motivation was usually social convention: we were new to a community, or we did it to fit in with our neighbours or because other family members expected it.

But personally, in your own heart, were your values idealistic and moralistic? I can never know how deeply rooted they were. In our house, some commandments were broken like dinner plates. Usually, some deeply-held trauma, guilt, or resentment would breach your surface out of a sea of alcohol and repression, and nothing good would ever come of it. It was the irony of the toughest man on the block, shamed to near-tears and clenched fists, facing shit that he couldn’t deal with. I’m sure your ego punished you and called you a failure inside. You had nobody to pray to, to ask for redemption, and no friends around you to confide in, at least that I ever saw. Everything in our family, and in your heart, seemed to happen behind closed doors.

Wow, that was a big load of judgement and assumption that I just laid at your feet Dad. I will never know what was in your heart, and it’s hubris for me to assume things about your character. I think that now your vision and compassion are infinite. It’s unlikely that you will give me a response, but I probably have been too hard on you for too long. There’s not much gained by punishing you posthumously. If there is a cosmic scale to be balanced for you, its not my right to load up one side or the other. I believe that the universe will absorb it and balance itself out, the same way your matter and energy have long ago been redistributed, and the atoms you used from 1921 to 1989 have long gone back into the service of other people and things.

In my teens, you did teach me that energy cannoy be created or destroyed, only transformed. You wanted me to understand a little physics and math, and to see the world in a rational way, the way modern scientific and technological men did. I’ve really worked at that over the years.

So now that your form has been gone for almost thirty years, I should leave my angry feelings in the past too. If there is an afterlife, there’s no way I can reach you in it – at least not for another 30 or 40 years if I take good care of myself. If there’s no afterlife, then you’re now infinite and redistributed, and beyond my reach anyway.

But even though you’re gone, I can still write to you, and not just on father’s day.

I’ll try to listen for your reply.

I love you.

John.

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