Note: I'd written this letter while working on THE GAZE, never thinking it would see the light of day, but this is what happened...
I turned to see my daughters stare at me with a frustrated look on their face.
"I'm just replying to a message, we're still going for ice cream."
Their frown turned upside down. It's amazing the type of absolution a cone of Dairy Queen's finest can buy you.
"Dad, why are you always writing?" Kendra asked with severity after her little sister left the room dancing for joy at the prospect of ice cream.
"Maybe I'll write it in a letter for you."
"Just for me?" Her hazel eyes shone with anticipation.
"Just for you."
"Okay," she said with satisfaction. "I'd better get my shoes on."
Kendra and Amber, here's the letter.
I started writing you these notes because since you both came along, I've lived moments I never wanted to forget, but also in the hopes of helping you understand why your mommy and I do the things we do. When I was your age, I didn't understand much of what went on in my parents' lives, and when it was clear I wasn't the center of the universe, I'd wrongly get upset. So while the moment is fresh in my mind, I wanted to commit these thoughts to the page so when you come of age, you may be privy to the answers I kept from you when you were little.
Writing saved my life.
Not just once, not even twice. Writing kept me from shattering during times when I could've easily fallen apart.
When I was a kid and we moved from Ecuador to Connecticut, loneliness was my only companion. I couldn't utter more than three words in English and there was no chance of making friends. Your grandparents and aunt were going through a similar hard time, and I couldn't in good conscience burden them with my discontent. There were some people that offered me plenty of temptations to escape from reality, but I couldn't disappoint my parents after everything they sacrificed for me to have a shot at life here, in this amazing country. So I turned to writing. I wrote and wrote about anything and everything. Little by little I gained a handle on enough English to get me by and then I discovered what a beautiful language I had to play with. So, when you go through your hard times, if you feel the need to escape, please do something constructive and don't harm yourselves.
I'll tell you the story of Mommy and me, and how almost losing her nearly undid me. I once again turned to writing, where I vented my heartaches, and eventually found the determination to win her heart. One day, you will know what a heartbreak is. It's just one of those things we all seem obligated to endure, but if you stay courageous and don't forget your worth, you'll be stronger for it all.
When you asked me why I'm always writing, I couldn't possibly give you an understanding of what the ebbs and flows of the economy meant to my job, the job that kept me away from you for entire days at a time. I couldn't let you see how afraid I was of losing everything we've worked so hard for, because the job suddenly wasn't enough. I couldn't let you see the regret in my face when I realized we just had to move and start over, for I knew what that meant to you, to Mommy. I couldn't let you know that I've felt like I've let you down despite knowing how absloutely you counted on me.
When all the mounting despair got the best of me, I pasted a smile on my face for you, and when you went to sleep, I kissed your foreheads and silently asked you to forgive me for my errors. And to escape that kind of recrimination, I sat at the keyboard to write.
All that writing I did when I was a kid, and all the people I wrote about, gave me enough to weave a story, a story that a few people like enough to have given me a glimpse of what a career in writing would mean for all of us. I just wanted an opportunity, and I was determined to work as hard as I could to get to that point.
One day, you'll read this letter and hopefully have your answer. By then I pray to God that whatever sacrifices you had to make when you were little, have been well worth it, and thus grant your father a level of absolution that all the ice cream in the world may not have bought.
I love you both more than you could ever know,