; An Amends Letter to My Daughters
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An Amends Letter to My Daughters


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									                An Amends Letter to My Daughters

Hey Rebecca and Jennifer,

I‟m sitting here in my sweat, listening to my iPod with 772 songs and
watching several eagles and crows soar and fight over the garbage
being thrown in the river behind the Mutur house from the Muslim Fish
Market across the way, while writing this to the two of you on
meNewMojoMac, the G-4 that Lynn was able to bring me a couple of
weeks ago when we “honeymooned” in Sri Lanka.

Jennifer, you may not be aware of it, but Rebecca made a very
poignant post on my blog the other day. She expressed how grateful
she is that I seem very different in relating about Lynn, and that she is
filled with hope that our relationship can become more than it has
been, especially during the last several years. This has caused me to
do a lot of reflecting upon our relationship, more often lack of a
relationship, I have had with the two of you over the years, which at
best has been somewhat remote and tenuous, often very distant and
inconsistent. As well, I have been reading lately the work of a VA
psychiatrist, Jonathan Shay, who in his two books, Achilles in Vietnam
and Odysseus in America, which Lynn also brought me, detail in an
especially humane and effective way how the long-term aftermath
from what I experienced as a young soldier in that dirty little war over
37 years ago continues to negatively impact me in ways I have often
denied, even with all my work in recovery and working as a therapist
on the other side of the desk with many veterans. From his books, I
have continued to learn just how much healing I, as a veteran of
Vietnam, still require, especially in the areas of intimacy within family
relationships. Therefore, I want to take some time this weekend to
write this letter of amends to the two of you.

There is so much I want to say, so much I want to relate to you, but I
don‟t know how exactly to begin, and the incessant blaring of the
crows and buzzing of the numerous flies is distracting. Okay, just take
a deep breath and begin to relate to me my view of our story . . .

You may have read on the blog some of the truth about the
relationship with your Mom. It is not a very romantic story. It was a
relationship and marriage mostly of convenience, and I do owe her
quite an amend as well. Over the years, I am most grateful that we
have been able to be mostly civil and concerned about the other‟s well
being. Of course, I am much indebted to her for raising the two of you
with the values and talents that you have, especially to be the fine,
dedicated Mothers that you are to your children, Zachary, Josh,
Camden and Lindsay (see Jennifer, I can actually get it right!) the
grandchildren you have blessed me with. Your Mom mostly raised you
alone with very little input or support from me.

The truth of it was when I met your Mom, I was quite ill, not so much
physically, but certainly mentally, emotionally and spiritually from my
disease of addiction. Despite an outward, quite successful life, filled
externally with lots of honors and accomplishments, inside, in my
heart and spirit, I was quite dead, desperately desiring not to be
anything else but that -- dead. I had no hope that I would ever be able
to achieve any modicum of happiness or experience a sense of
satisfaction. Quite the contrary, I felt most incapable of it. I despaired,
and was obsessed with death and dying, did lots of heavy risk-taking
behavior, like driving drunk and recklessly on a motorcycle without a
helmet. A major rub, however, was my Catholicism, which I wasn‟t
actually practicing, being a self-described agnostic with atheist
leanings. Nevertheless, I was paranoid enough to think that if I overtly
took an action to kill myself, jump off a Cincinnati bridge or building,
purposefully overdose on drugs and alcohol, get a gun and blow my
brains out, some punishing God the Father of the Sisters of Mercy had
beat in to me, would manifest itself out of the Kosmos to send me to
hell forever and ever and ever. So, I volunteered to go to Vietnam,
which in 67-68 was a pretty safe place for a Second Lieutenant to die.
Rebecca, I think you know that I found out that your Mom was
pregnant with you a couple of weeks before I left for Vietnam, and
that I made the decision, behind a fifth of Inver House scotch in my
friend Jo-Jo‟s backyard pool in Jackson on leave before shipping to
Vietnam, to return to Baltimore to marry her two days before I flew to
Nam. So I did, married her, legitimized you, saved her honor and
prevented me from having a paternity suit brought against me, which
would have been rather sticky being and officer and gentleman by act
of Congress and all that. Perhaps, this is an unfair concern about your
Mom, but the fear of it motivated me to “do the right thing,” and
besides it didn‟t make me no never mind, because my full intention
was not to return from Vietnam; I was determined to have Charlie do
to me what I was too chickenshit to do to myself – to kill me.

As is obvious, the lesson most of my life bears out, my plans did not
prevail, and I returned home from Vietnam, a full-fledged alky and
addict. The relationship with your Mom was shaky at best, filled with
conflict and argument, much of it due to my drinking/drugging and
loathsome self-hate from Vietnam. I‟m not proud to relate this, but I
had several affairs, including the serious one with Debbie, the woman
who became my second wife, whom I met, Jennifer in the Fall before
you were born. In November or December your Mom and I separated
because of one of my drunken rages, when I tore the apartment apart
and threatened to kill your mom and myself. That scared us both.

Rebecca, you may remember that we were very close, that you were
the apple of my eye, that you would comfort me in our small little
West Hyattsville Apartment late at night when I would be sobbing in
my beer from your room just across from the desk in the kitchen
corner where I would be trying to do my school work for the Directing
MFA at Catholic University that I flunked out of and never got due to
my drinking/drugging. Debbie was very threatened by my relationship
with you, and methodically made me promise when we married and
moved to New York in 1972 not to connect with you. Most regrettably I
agreed, and one of the afternoons I am most regretful and ashamed
about was when she and I methodically went through my stuff and
destroyed all the pictures I had of us, including some lovely pictures of
you with a long ponytail taken when we went to the National Zoo,
when you were three or four. Don‟t blame her too harshly, I allowed it.
Besides, her father was the town drunk of New Rochelle, who died in
the Church of the DTs where she was taking her novitiate vows to
become a nun, because the Mother Superior had told him he had to be
totally sober before he could come to the ceremony, so he went cold-
turkey, and died from it in the middle of the ceremony in Church. As a
result of this, she dropped out of the nunnery and went to Catholic
University for a social work degree, which is where I met her. It‟s
ironic that a decade later, I became a social worker. I guess she
figured since she didn‟t have a Dad that you didn‟t need one either.

I reconnected with you and your Mom in „74 or ‟75, after I was sober a
couple of years and after Debbie filed for divorce. During your
childhood, when I was in New York City, we would see each other
every several months, you either coming up to the City, when I was
with one of my several girlfriends, or me coming down to visit you in
Maryland. Then in the fall of ‟79 Sara and I began our relationship
when she became pregnant with Tommy, even though she was still
married at the time to Dave, Dawn and Jennifer‟s Father. During the
22 years of our relationship, the connection I had with the two of you,
Rebecca and Jennifer, was sometimes close, too often distant.

Sara, to a much less degree than Debbie, was also threatened, or at
least uninterested, in participating in our relationship. Often you will
recall that I, sometimes with Tommy, sometimes alone, would come
down to visit you in Maryland. She constantly had back problems, as
you may recall Jennifer she was in the throes of at your wedding; she
contended she was bothered by the long car ride, or so she said,
though we often took long drives elsewhere. She only came to one of
our Family reunions in North Carolina, the last one in ‟94 I think before
she had the affair with Joe. And just so you understand that I
understand that I am not a victim here. The only reason she began to
look for love elsewhere was that she had given up that my rage, anti-
authority rebellion, obsessive self-destruction from Vietnam would
ever change. I don‟t excuse the choices that she made, but I forgive
her for them; she was only looking for love, which she had given up
she could find with me. The other reality is that for years I tolerated
her having the affair with Joe, believing that living with part of her was
better than living with none of her. For most of my life, certainly since
I survived despite my self, Vietnam, I have not accepted that I
deserved the love of a good woman and have been compelled to
destroy it when I had it.

The truth of it is that Sara also had a very deep Father wound, like
Debbie. I was instrumental in helping her recall a very traumatic
incident that happened to her when she was about three years old,
roughly the same age, Rebecca, as you were when I left you. Here‟s
the story:

She was an only child, her older brother having died a number of years
earlier in childbirth, which was the occasion for her parents getting
married via the shotgun. It‟s amazing how some patterns and themes
weave themselves in and out of our stories. Apparently, she was also
the apple of his eye. She has strong sense memories of snuggling up
on his chest, and him laughing and giggling with her as a young child,
being totally delighted by her. Then there was a total breakdown in the
relationship. For decades, she had no recollection of what happened
but for most of her late childhood, teenage years and as a young
woman, they were most estranged. He was super cold and distant,
telling her she was unattractive, never supporting any of her activities,
passively ignoring her Mother‟s alcoholism-spurred rages at her. At ten
years old, she starred in a local little theatre production of Little Annie
in her South Jersey hometown, receiving rave reviews. When she
related to her Father that she wanted to become an actress, his
response was, “Oh no, Cathy (her name until she married me) only
pretty girls become actresses,” since she wore thick glasses.

A couple of years after we moved into the Islip house, I guess during
one of the more stable times in our relationship, it was safe enough for
her to recall what happened. She remembered that one late summer
day she, her Mom and Dad had gone to the Jersey Shore for a golden
day at the beach. All was happiness and light, safety and closeness,
positively idyllic. They came home and her mother was in the kitchen
preparing dinner while her father soaked in a tub. Apparently he had
an erection that he covered with a washcloth, making the washcloth
come up out of the water and then disappear. I truly don‟t think that
her father abused her; it was very inappropriate behavior, perhaps,
but I wouldn‟t consider it sexual abuse. Some might differ. She was
delighted and went into the kitchen to tell her mother about “Daddy‟s
trick.” Sara believes her Mother was the victim of childhood sexual
abuse in her family, and when she found out what Sara‟s father had
done, she went into a rage, running into the bathroom with Sara
desperately trying to restrain her, screaming that she would whack “it”
off. Thereafter, there was only darkness, and the golden afternoon at
the beach would never return. I held Sara for several hours as she
regressed, sobbing inconsolably, to that small child again, so full of
guilt and terror that she was the cause that driven her father away, if
only she hadn‟t told her Mom about “Daddy‟s trick.” Sara recalls that
her parents were separated for a while and that when her Father came
back it was never the same again. He was super distant, she was not
allowed to curl up in his lap ever again, and he would not look her in
the eye. I guess her Mother threatened him with the wrath of avenging
angels, because I witnessed that even decades after her Mother had
passed over, he could not, would not look her directly in the eye. We
were at lunch in Ocean City, NJ once, and Sara was craning in front of
him at the table, trying to get him to look at her, but he refused to
maintain eye contact with her. He actually turned sideways in his seat
away from her. It was one of the saddest events I ever witnessed. So
Sara had a deep Father wound as well, so I guess she too didn‟t want
to participate in my relationship with the two of you. I owe you an
amends that I allowed my co-dependency on the relationship with
Sara to prevent me from being closer with you during most of the
years we were together.

I guess you know that I also have a Father wound. I was always quite
estranged from your Grandfather Brinson. Our relationship was
superficial at best; though he externally supported all my various
activities, we were never able to communicate Father to son; adult
elder to young man. He apparently from his background did not want
children, and Mother during the Second World War out of fear he
would go off and be killed forced him to impregnate her with me in
‟42. He didn‟t want to share his hostage, “Bobbi,” with anyone,
especially with kids. I hated and disrespected him as a child. Though I
was certainly negatively impacted by my mother‟s raging criticism and
judgment, it is the Father wound that has affected me most. As an
adult, I only had a couple of close and intimate conversations with
him; most of the time it was very superficial and Hallmark Card-like.
In the early 90s for awhile before he went to the Alzheimer‟s facility
and before Sara and I separated, I tried unsuccessfully to correspond
with him, but he could only respond in trite superficialities, and I soon
gave up. He died in July of 2001, several months before my schedule
permitted me to be available to just sit and be with him during his final
days. When he died, so too did my hope that I would ever heal fully
the Father wound. On my last visit to Jackson while he was alive in
October of 2000 -- ironically one of the last straws to break the camels
back in the relationship with Sara -- we were able to have a very close
and meaningful conversation sitting in the den one afternoon. I am
most grateful for that. I‟ll attach a prose poem I wrote about it with
this missive to you.

Since the implosion of Sara‟s and my relationship in 2001, I certainly
have much of the time been literally and figuratively out to lunch,
make that dinner, breakfast and teatime too. I can see that coming to
Sri Lanka was another very self-destructive, very narcissistic, self-
denigrating outcome of unresolved stuff from Vietnam that has
plagued me in varying degrees since I stepped off the plane in
Washington‟s National Airport in the late afternoon of April 4, 1968,
and quickly downed a couple of double Johnny Walker Blacks, trying to
figure out why D.C. was burning in black rage after the assassination a
couple of hours earlier of Martin Luther King in Memphis. I think little
Jennifer in her quotes in the first Bart Jones article about me doing
penance for Vietnam was speaking more truth then I have been willing
to acknowledge, certainly after reading Shay and the long-term
intransigency of the aftermath of Post Traumatic Stress Injury, which
he calls it, instead of a Disorder. Being here, however, did make it
possible miraculously over time, distance and space for Lynn and I to
have made the strong connection that we have.

And yes, Rebecca, I am literally and figuratively completely reborn in a
totally new Kosmos as a result of our relationship. Our connection and
shared love has surpassed all my wildest imaginings about sharing a
Bersherta (soul mate) partnership again with a woman. I thought that
possibility had died forever with the demise of Sara‟s and my
relationship in 2001. Since leaving New York I have largely been living
in a fog of unresolved grief and despair, and keening rage, always the
keening rage. But with the emergence of the connection with Lynn out
of the devastation and destruction of the Tsunami, with the strength of
our love over space and distance, culminating in the lovely physical
connection we made during the Easter break, which surpassed the
very strong heart/mind/spirit connection we made via email and phone
calls prior to her coming, I am filled with more hope and enthusiasm
for life and living than I have had in years.

What I now understand and gratefully accept is that as good as the
relationship with Sara was, that for years, since the mid-90s when she
had the relationship with Joe, it has been the enemy of the best for
her and for me. I am eternally grateful that she insisted that it was
over and that both of us needed to move on – I am so incredibly
grateful that I have been able to move on to be available for the gift
from the Kosmos that Lynn is and I can hardly wait for us to be a
family together.

And guess what? Lynn has a Father wound too. She has been
estranged from her father for the past decade; he was a rageoholic
manic-depressive, who physically and emotionally abused her and her
older brother all through their childhood. As her reply to the email I
sent you Rebecca indicates, her experience of you and me reaching
out in the renewed hope that our relationship can improve has moved
her deeply, and she is committed to us all being a family because she
understands fully and supports how important a deepening love
between us all is. She and I are committed to visiting with your
families a minimum of once a month – you guys have made it very
convenient for us by living around the corner from each other. During
the summers we will plan on having longer times together; maybe
we‟ll start a whole new tradition of the “Brinson” clan having reunions,
here on the east coast and out in the Southwest with Tommy, Jennifer
and Dawn. Maybe the kids can come up and spend some time with us
on the Island and in the City during the summers.

So my dear daughters, there are better times a coming for all of us,
and I am exceedingly hopeful and most happy that my life has
continued to unfold itself in ways that surprise and delight me. One of
my favorite quotes is from a young man from New York City, who I
was blessed to get sober with in 1972. He wrote in one of AA‟s books:

         Don’t look back, you haven’t seen anything yet!

Hey kiddos, don‟t look back, we haven‟t seen anything yet, and the
best is yet to be.

I love you,

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