Five years ago, my ex-father-in-law sent me this letter:
It pissed me off. I wrote a response, but never sent it. It was rambling and made me do a lot of work, so I sat on it.
Flash forward to a little over a year ago and he showed up in town, ostensibly to help, and then bailed. Since then, my ex and ex-sister-in-law have confirmed he only visited to proselytize us and has left phone messages for them, which they have not returned.
He’s upped the ante lately by sending a letter to my ex, and it’s as self-serving as the letter above, asking her and her sister to forgive him, but qualifying his actions as a direct result of their failure to accept his faith. Doubling down, he sent a *photocopy* of the same letter to her sister and then texted some self-serving bullshit to my ex.
These antics have stirred their pots, which trickles down to my kids, and its butterfly effect blew into my world. Realizing it was time to say my piece, I finally re-wrote my response, presented below. I’m going to sleep on it before sending. His worldview doesn’t respond to appeals to logic or empathy, so I grasped the scepter of righteousness hoping to beat some sense into him by not sparing the rod.
10 January 2017
Surprise! I wrote a response to your letter from five years ago but set it aside, deeming it lacking. Over the years, I’ve taken both out to re-read and tinker with, but I was never happy with it. I’m not entirely happy with this one either, but such is the curse of word-craft.
You wrote to me in love, and I return the favor. This comes from my heart of righteous love.
“A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” – Proverbs 11:18
You, sir, are a coward and a sham.
How dare you even attempt to lecture me about responsibility and love. Your weak attempt to conflate your desire to chase skirts and abandon your children with my right to wear a skirt around mine is beyond insulting.
Unlike you, I have shouldered my adult responsibilities and remained in my children’s lives to love and support them as best I can emotionally and materially as a half-time parent, even when those responsibilities threaten to crush me. Further, I have and will continue to remain in their lives longer than you ever did. You shirked your parental responsibilities and made countless decisions over the years to continue to do so.
That I would take parenting advice from you is ludicrous, especially given what transpired with your last visit. Your admirable offer of help to your daughters sparked hope in them before your arrival.
Instead, your cowardly retreat left ashes in hearts where warm fires should have banked. That you had to be arm-twisted into saying goodbye to your grandchildren poured urine upon any remaining embers.
Its craven narcissism still astonishes me along with the recent, hypocritical effluent you have been spewing at your daughters in an attempt to guilt them into forgiving your patently uncaring and unkind behavior.
I am not of your or any faith, but I can see a certain literary nobility in believing in one so fervently you’d abandon your children if they didn’t accept yours in their greatest hour of need.
That you travelled at great distance and cost only to minister to their souls and not to their great and apparent corporeal needs reveals your fealty to a cult that values the dead over the living. Their real, lived suffering wasn’t reason enough to remain and help, and your proselytizing was revealed to be the tool of emotional blackmail it is.
While the whole arc makes a great plot for a novel, the tangible legacy of your self-professed errand of salvation and mercy was your children feeling shattered, angry, and abandoned yet again, and your grandchildren wondering why grandpa left abruptly.
For shame you charlatan! Shame!
If you are unable to see that you did the exact. same. thing. you did when they were younger by chasing after piety instead of a skirt, you are blinded by your faith and abide in darkness of soul and a mirror-house of self-deception.
Unless and until you see that you have been using your infidelities, faith, and alcohol as insulators between you fully accepting responsibility and learning from your mistakes & changing your behavior accordingly, your family will be estranged, because you simply can’t be reached at your remove. That’s not your family’s fault and it is not their gap to close, it is yours.
May Jesus’ love fill the hole you cut from your own heart until you find a way to mend it.
(I’ve found that reading it in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson and throwing in a few motherfuckers here and there really makes it sing, but YMMV.)