this is a repost from a couple of years ago. i'm writing a new letter later today and thought it appropriate to share this one again, for context and contrast.
my life is so much different from when you knew me. all i could do back then was try to please you. i know it was hard to tell with the running away, the arrests, the disrespect i showed you on a daily basis when you were still alive. but in all that, i wanted you to notice me. i wanted you to protect me. i wanted you to teach me. i wanted you to love me.
we watched baseball together and i learned your love of the game, win or lose. we laughed together and i learned your sense of humor, both filtered and raw. we talked like mother, like daughter, like friends, like enemies, and i learned that nowhere and everywhere was safe within those bonds.
i listened to how you searched for your father's love and never got it because you were a girl. i listened as you denied your alcohol consumption that night you passed out after i tasted your vodka flavored lemonade and watched you pour a bottle of smirnoff down the kitchen sink the next morning. i watched you teach me that appearances are more important than telling the truth. i watched you teach me that telling the truth does no good when the person i'm telling doesn't want to hear it. i watched you teach me that i don't need to tell the truth if people will believe a lie.
my life now does not mirror my life then. my life now only expresses my life then. i've learned so much from your life, from the things you did right, from the things i wish you'd done differently, from the things that impressed me so much that i’d have you do them the same, no matter the consequence.
let me tell you what i remember, so you can see through my eyes.
i love that you took care of me when i was sick, that you came home for lunch to check on me and feed me soup and take my temperature (and probably to make sure i was really there). i love that you took me to dodger games. i love that you got excited at the prospect of talking to steve yeager on kabc radio one morning while getting ready for work. i love that you baked my birthday cake more often than not. i love that you took me to brandi fernandez's funeral and told me that there was never a good enough reason for suicide.
i remember walking down the railroad tracks by our condo and we talked about school and how you were disappointed with the previous year's grades. i told you i would bring them up in the coming year, and you told me you didn't believe me. maybe that would've worked if i believed in myself. but i was relying on you to believe in me. without you, i couldn't believe in myself. the scar from that day is still visible, palpable in my soul, my actions, my heart. i wonder if it will ever fully heal.
i remember sitting on the couch the weekend before you died. pomeranian on one side of you, me on the other. we talked about nothing in particular, but i remember beaming inside...feeling like you finally looked at me like a real person. like i wasn't just your daughter, but someone whose thoughts and feelings you cared about because they were relevant, not because you felt obligated by family relation. you talked to me about your relationship with steven and i talked about life in placement. you didn't judge me, you didn't scold me, you just listened. i will always be grateful for the moments we shared on that couch. especially because they were the last.
i've gone through graduations and first loves, getting hired and fired, moving and moving and moving some more...i've gotten a driver's license, i've bought and sold cars, i've voted...i've loved, had my heart broken and broken hearts...i've lied, i've cheated, i've stolen...i've learned, been humbled, been forgiven...i've fallen behind, gotten ahead, and kept up with the crowd...i've been depressed, overwhelmed and felt like i would never recover...i've laughed, i've shared, i've given everything of myself and expected both nothing and everything in return...all in all, mom, i've lived. and you missed it.
for much of my twenties i resented you for missing my life. for not being here for the big things. you weren't here when i signed my first lease on an apartment. when i got my first raise. when i got into my first car accident. and i resented you for not being here for the little things. you weren't here when i came home from work exhausted after my first real night shift working the counter at mcdonald's when i needed encouragement and a soft ear to listen to all my complaints about why it was so hard. when i bought my first set of couches. when i dropped off my first set of clothes at the dry cleaners. it's the little things i missed that you never got to be a part of.
you used to send flowers to grandma just because. and you took that away from me. you would drop by grandma & grandpa's for dinner on a whim because you wanted to talk about what was going on in your life with them. you took that away from me. you would answer the phone when grandma called every other night just to chat about what little old ladies who play bridge and drink wine all day chat about with their daughters. you took that away from me.
so many nights i had dinner alone and wished i could've invited you over. so many nights i watched baseball alone and wished i could have called you after a great play. so many nights i missed you and your voice and the way you always knew the right thing to say, even if it was nothing at all, and i wished i could call you. you took that away from me. you took it all away by staying.
after you died i dreaded dreaming about you because i hated waking up from those dreams. i hated that the only time i could see you was when you weren't really there. i hated that you left me. i hated that you stayed with him. i hated that he killed you...that you killed yourself. i have no doubt that you didn't point the gun at yourself. but you stayed with him. you knew what kind of man he was: the kind of man to touch your daughter. and if that wasn't enough to leave him, then i guess nothing short of dying in a gun battle in your bedroom was going to do it.
i wouldn't let anyone talk bad about you because you weren't here to defend yourself. i wouldn't even allow myself to openly be angry with you, to openly resent you. but i was angry with you. i did resent you. you didn't protect me, and that made me angry. i expected you to react to steven the way you reacted to grandpa that night you told him off. remember?
i called you after grandpa yelled at me, had me backed into a corner crying, telling me i was good for nothing, that i would never amount to anything, that i would end up just like my mother. i didn't know what he meant; i was scared and confused. i called you and when you got to the house, you told me to go to the car. i sat in the car in the driveway and watched you. i couldn't hear a word that was said, but i saw your head, your hand, your finger swagger in front of him and in my mind i heard the greatest speech anyone's ever given about how wrong it was to treat me the way my grandfather had. i saw only the back of your head and could only imagine the words flying out of your mouth that night, but the one thing i was sure of was that you loved me. that you were protecting me. that you were saving me from everything bad he could ever do to me. from anything bad anyone could ever do to me. that was the only night of my life i ever felt like that about you.
there are so many things i've missed out on in my life because you weren't here. and for the longest time that seemed to be all i could focus on. and at some point it dawned on me that you were human. that you had faults. that just because you were my mother didn't mean that you were supposed to get everything right. that's a fallacy that all kids have about their parents. and it sucks to grow up and realize that your parents are human and make mistakes, too. i know you did everything in your power to save me. i know that if you could've done anything more you would have. and i know that you just didn't have the capacity to love yourself enough to leave him. and i know that because that's the way it was, i've learned from it.
i rarely think about those things anymore, but you need to know that sometimes they come up. that sometimes these things affect me and my life. and that these things do not consume me.
i live near the beach now, me and my two cats. i’m head over heels for my girlfriend. yeah, girlfriend. i guess if you were here, you'd know that by now. i quit my job over a year ago to write and haven't really done what i expected to with that, but i'm still working towards everything i've ever dreamed about. i wish you were here to see it all for yourself, but i accept that you're not.
i guess the whole point in writing this letter at all wasn't to tell you about what's going on in my life, but to tell you how you've impacted it. it's easy to tell you that you made me laugh and that i love you. but it's hard to tell you that i was ever angry with you, that i ever judged you and thought you were a bad parent. and even harder still to tell you that i've forgiven you for your mistakes, as if i have the right to do anything other than that. there were parts of my life that were hell when you were here as well as when you left. and none of it was your fault. it's just the way it was. my life is mine and if i blame you for everything that happened to me, i'd never get to living my life. so at this point, the letter becomes about letting you go.
there's no such thing as jayme ann newkirk anymore. no such thing as jayme ann reid. or jayme ann boland. she's gone and has been for years. the only thing that's left is the memory i hold of you. and that some of that memory serves me no purpose anymore. i've learned from the anger, the frustration, the humiliation, the exhaustion, the depression, and the relief. i've learned from holding on, moving on, and letting go piece by piece. first there were your clothes, then your make up (like i was allowed to ever wear make up), then your knick knacks, and your dishes, your phone (which still had blood on it from the night you died that i never cleaned off or told anyone about)...and the rest are the memories. there are some memories i'll let go of (i won't hash those out again here), and there are some i'll hold on to (hill cows and moo cows, the pout bird, and the look on your face when we saw brian boitano in the red onion all those years ago). but it's all my decision because this life is finally mine. yours is over and that's all you get.
i love you with all my heart. say hi to dad for me.
your beloved daughter