F-ck You and Thank You

By Jim Wolfson

My father was killed by a drunk driver when I was 10 years old, leaving my 36 year old mother with 3 boys.

Dear Dad,

F-ck You!  Yes, f-ck you for leaving me without saying goodbye.  And f-ck you for never going to my little league games.  I did pretty well as a pitcher in some of those games, and you were never there.  I remember other dads being there. I was kind of numb and disembodied as a boy, but I think underneath it really hurt.

I really really REALLY missed not having you there as a stable presence to guide me and teach me how to be a man. I felt so lonely.

I know that many people will rationalize, and say, ‘well he didn’t really have a choice about his death, and you can’t really be angry at him.’  Bullshit.  For years I denied myself that anger, and then I started doing inner child work in my 50’s, and I learned that the little boy in me, alive and well, was angry as hell.  That’s how children are.  There is no logic.  Just angry and hurt.  Nobody in my life back then taught me how to express any of it.  So here is a big fuck you from Jimmy!

And, thank you very, very much.  From those early wounds, I took on a lot of beliefs and developed many capacities that have served me well, and taught me a lot.

I remember right away wondering, in the weeks following your funeral, ‘who will take care of us?’  Looking at my two older brothers and my mom, I decided quite clearly that it was me who would take care of everyone.  And I have done that over the decades, and done it well.  I developed a capacity to lead and be decisive.  So thank you Dad. 

I’ve been the one, over these many years, to oversee and manage so much of the legal and financial things that came up.  My brothers were not that interested and my mom was not able, especially in her last 10 years with dementia.

Was it a burden?  Absolutely. And I’m still unwinding it the ways I hurt myself and my family. Still learning.  

You died at 39 years old and that age was always a big marker for me.  In my late 30’s, I could feel a clock ticking louder and louder.  I really had a belief in me, installed at 10, that there are no guarantees, and that I might not live past 39.  This was the absolutely most important factor in my deciding to leave my very comfortable, established, credible and respected job at Fidelity Investments when I was 36.  I just kind of up and left, very suddenly.  I would never have been able to do this without you, so thank you very, very much.  A new life opened up for me.

I remember a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to meet your killer.  I had that newspaper clipping from 1967, saved all these years.  The article was on the front page of the Boston Herald.  “Wives Watch as Husbands Run Over by Drunk Drver.”

 There was the guys name right there in the newspaper.  21 years old, drunk, going to a wedding.  Killed two men on the side of the road who were changing a tire.  Yes, I remember Dad that your best friend George was helping you and he was killed too.  It was your bright red Ford Galaxy 500 convertible.  I remember not even being able to look at in the garage afterwards, before it was gone one day. And Dad, I imagine you would want me to visit this guy.

So the guy’s name was right there on the front page.  From Worcester, MA.  And I’m sure he went to jail.  And I’ve thought of him a lot over the years.  I wondered if he thought of me and my brothers, and how much he changed our lives.  And I came to having a  lot of compassion for him.  Hell, I’ve driven a little drunk before.  One time, I even drove while on LSD with my friend Steve when we were in high school.

With internet search what it is, I easily found that this guy was living in Portland, ME.  I could even see his house on Google maps.  There it is right there!   Hell, if I zoom in enough, I might be able to see him raking his lawn.  I  imagined being parked on the street, outside his house, following him to his local Dunkin Donuts at 6:30 in the morning.  Following him in, and just seeing what he was all about. 

He’d be 71, an old man, and this would mix with how my mom had described him, a young man in a white suit.

Even in this fantasy in my head, my heart would be kind of pounding.  I’d approach him, and I know he’d be scared.  But I just wanted to tell him that I forgive him for it all.  And that my life has been fine.  And to help him release himself of this burden.  It’s a part of me that wants to help this guy, even though he is not asking for anything from me. I know that I am imposing myself on him, I guess, kind of disrespectfully.

All projection.  Of course I have absolutely no idea what his life has been.  But I could just imagine hugging him, and then leaving.  An act of service I hope.

Well, I finally decided to play this out in reality just a few years ago.  I was going up to Portland for a few days to help my friend Jerr stack some wood at his house.  Turns out, Jeff lives 15 minutes from this guy. I figured I’d travel up north a little early and just go to the guy’s house.  I decided to tell Jerr my plan, and he insisted that he go with me.  That turned out to be a good idea, and I really appreciated his support and just having him with me.

 We finally found the guy’s house after a lot of back and forth.  It was kind of a sketchy neighborhood with a lot of little dead end streets and unclear signs.  Lots of giant oil tanks and railroad tracks.

Dad, I could feel you with me, and was thinking of you a lot.  I went up to the guy’s door, heart racing, and I could see mail addressed to him.  I rang the doorbell but nobody answered.

I gave it some time.  And that was that.  All over.  I got back in the car and we drove off.

I could feel so strongly that the deed was done.  All the desire to be in contact with this guy just drained away, and I really haven’t thought of him since then.  It’s like the action was over.  If we were meant to meet, then we would have, on that day.  All the decades of internal energy, emotions, and thoughts were drawn out into movement in the world, into 3D reality, and a kind of a cleansing occurred.  A kind of grace.

There may be some deeper lesson there for me, but I’m not really sure what it is in this moment.  I’m so glad I had the courage, or blind will, to ring that bell.  Something closed up that day.   A chapter was completed.

I’ve had so many other lessons and experiences that I link back to your death and I thank you for all of them. I feel grateful. 

I often wonder how all these experiences affect my  parenting of my two grown children.  When they are in their 60’s, what will their letters be about when they write them?  I bless them on their journey and ask for forgiveness and understanding.  


www.jimwolfson.com

10 thoughts on “A Letter to My Father”

  1. So touching and profound. Thank you for sharing such an intimate and moving part of your life. In the pain and the suffering there is always light, connection, possibility, and joy.
    With much respect and appreciation, and love, Barbara

  2. Oh my god Jim. First, thank you for sharing this articulate, raw and honest deep dive into your soul. The pain, rage, hate is palatable; how could it be otherwise. It must take so much courage to revisit this and feelings let some of it out. Sigh: Father’s Day 2020. You know are a great father and soon to be grandfather. Mazel tov and love, bev

  3. Jim,
    This is beautiful. Thank you. I can’t imagine the inquiry and work you needed to open to get to this place. Thanks for the father’s day healing. Much love and appreciation.
    Vern

  4. Jim,
    So much of your letter to your father resonates for me. My father died of a heart attack at the age of 58, when I was 13, three months after my bar mitzvah. I am the youngest of four. My eldest brother is 11 years older than me, my sister 8 years older and my closest brother 2 years older. The last thing my dad said to me, as the EMTs were carrying him out to the ambulence, was “Take care of Mom.”

    I have now outlived my dad by 7 years and all of my siblings are healthy. When the nursing home where my mother was living threatened to incubate her when she was having trouble swallowing, I took the lead (as a relatively new attorney) in opposing that. Eventually, we were able to move her to a nursing home which agreed to provide her with palliative care. Ironically, she ate better after the move and died in sleep ten days later.

    Love,

    Isaiah

  5. This is one of the most profound pieces I’ve read. Real life, raw, vulnerable, so necessary. Deep gratitude for your contribution to all who read this and encounter your work.

  6. This ability to be in touch with your emotions is a gift. My emotion each Father’s Day is sadness over the loss of my sweet young daughter Sophia so many years ago. Being in touch with the sadness helps it release. Thanks for teaching me that.

  7. Jim
    I was so moved by your letter. I have always seen you as a wonderful husband and father. So giving of yourself to those who needed your wisdom and encouragement . I am proud to call you friend, especially to my family.
    Bobbi

  8. Michael I applaud your willingness the embrace all that is inside of you. The rigor, will and curiosity that you bring to looking within, through your dreams, your light and your shadow continue to inspire me.

  9. To my dearest “soul” brother Jim
    What a gift and blessing your raw open hearted reflection was to read and to be nourished by its impact. Indeed it was a true honor to be there with you, to dialog with you of the history and to be witness to the depth of feeling and emotion for this monumental decision for your closure with your father and the perpetrator of your Dad’s removal from your life. I was honored to partake in the reconciliation process to be supportive in making the drive to that home and neighborhood, honored to assist in facilitating the process. True men and brothers do this for other men, for the women in their life, for their sons and daughters, and those they call friend. We are graced to know this way of being and living. We are blessed to pass this onto our children and other men and women by example. What a Father’s Day gift you provided to your friends and other souls in your life. I am grateful for the comments of your supporters and loved ones. I was particularly moved and could relate to you friend Isaiah ‘s story as I too lost my father at age of 53 due to a cardiovascular accident (stroke). I was 13y 9 mo, I am the youngest of 4, oldest brother 10years and closest brother 3 yrs older. I deeply felt lost and forsaken at that time with an emptiness of an unanswered “Why” So, I am hopeful to meet your friend and brother Isaiah in the future when the time aligns itself. It may merit add additional healing for us both.
    You and I have spent many years of searching for reconciliation. There was no mistake that we met at a spiritual workshop at Kripalu 27 years ago assigned as a “family” member to each other and have been close “brothers of the soul” ever since. We have graced each other with our “Being Present ” for one another ever since. Thank you Jim for this inspiring reflection with a significant depth of meaning for many.
    I am grateful for your “Presence” in my life and to wake up finding your text “Birthday Wishes” on my phone for one of the first experiences of the day and toped off with the blessings of our 40 minute subsequent phone conversation. You are a true brother in which my life has been blessed and enriched.
    So, it is and “Let it Be”
    Jerr

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