By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Yes, what follows is a frank discussion I need to have with my daughters; and I hope they read this.
Ladies, you two are the most amazing people. As a father, I couldn’t be more proud of each of you. Though you are each on a different trajectory, there is no doubt in my heart that success and happiness await you at the end of the rainbow.
I write because despite each of you being adults now, my role as ‘father’ and ‘teacher’ has not ended. This past week taught me a valuable lesson; a hard lesson. I came face to face with a demon I had not expected. From the pain and chaos of that encounter, I have grown. More importantly, however, is that I also realized that the lesson I learned is one I have to teach you. Failing to do so would be an abdication of my responsibility.
The two of you have grown up in different epochs in my life. You each are children of different marriages. One of you met me as a young adult; the other as an old man. Ten years separate you – which is an entire generation. You two grew up strangers to each other and have had lived lives that have not touched. One of you was raised away from me. The other spent her life trapped in the same home with me. One of you I completely lost contact with for a number of years as a result of parental alienation and the gap that opened I don’t think will ever be completely filled. The other of you had to endure my rise to the top and subsequent spectacular fall from grace. One of you was hurt by me through abandonment. The other was hurt by my hubris. One of you was hurt by my hand; the other by my words. Nothing I can do will ever erase the scars. All I can do is continue to try and reach out to salve the wounds and become a friend of yours as we all move into old age and beyond.
But I write not to cleanse my soul of my own sins. I am already sentenced to hell. What I need to do here for your benefit is to share something.
You both are all too familiar with my own roots and upbringing. The fires of hell and insanity that gave rise to the person that I am today have singed each of you. Of the many injuries suffered by my own childhood was the separation of me from my sister at the age of 8. I don’t have to recount the path that my life has travelled. But I know that you know that boiled down to its gravy, my sister and I were separated as young children and we grew up as did you two – separate lives on different trajectories and never having any substantive contact or relationship with each other. Like you two, my sister and I grew up and lived the first fifty something years of our lives as complete strangers to each other.
So this past week, the winds of serendipity blew my sister into town. For the first time since she and I were children, did we spend any substantive time together. It is true that over the years our paths would cross at some family event and we would have the same conversation about the same subjects and tell the same stories for the couple of hours we would be together – and then we would part and not talk for a period of years. The only information we had about each other was that provided us by untrustworthy, biased, and maliciously motivated sources. If my sister and I had any relationship, it was to be played against each other for the benefit of someone else in the family.
Because I never had a sister in my life but knew I had a sister, I carried with me since I was a kid the mental image of actually having a close family member out there. Having a sister meant to me that I had a peer; someone who knew where I had come from and understood the 300 kinds of hell I have to live with every day. Having a younger sister also allowed me to enjoy the ‘older brother’ fantasy which I even got to act out in rescue efforts too many times. (I am not the only one who had it hard at times).
Until she landed here in Syracuse, my sister or the idea of having a sister was a mirage, a picture I had painted in my own head over a lifetime. I know she is a real person but that person I never met. All I had was the fantasy.
Well ladies, as one of you witnessed in part and the other probably can already foresee, i learned two lessons this week that I must share with you; collectively. The first lesson is that my sister is not the two dimensional caricature that I had carried around my head for 50 years. She is a three dimensional human being with loves and dreams and passions and desires. She is talented, smart, successful, and has thrived despite the most horrific of circumstances. She has survived where others would have died. As a brother, I couldn’t be more proud. Just as a fellow traveler on this earth, one has to see her for being the good hearted person that she is.
The second lesson, the one that caused me more pain and injury than I could have expected is that fifty years is a long time. It is a lifetime. The person who got off that plane last week and with whom I spent a handful of days filling in gaps of our mutual history was someone I did not know. Yes, she was my sister and we had a DNA connection and brief historical tie.
But I did not know the women I met. Our time together was strained as I tried (as I am sure as did she) to make some kind of connection. Once we got past the common historical threads of discussion and filled in some missing gaps, we really had little to talk about. She was a stranger. Time may heal that if she and I manage to keep going that which we started. Over the future, she and I may find a way to be friends and maybe just maybe develop a familial bond. Right now, we struggle to be in each other’s company.
You two are now in the same situation. Having grown up a decade and a continent apart, you two are also strangers to each other. You are sisters. Bits of pieces of your history overlap and each of you has a story to share with the other about me about which the other has no clue. One day you will have to start talking because you will need closure and to know the complete story of your own lives as well as that of your father.
What I tell you is to please don’t squander the opportunity. Being friends and family is not easy. It takes work. You have to reach out even when you don't want. You have to talk and argue and fight and love and go that extra mile. One day though, you two will also be 50 something years old and realize that you are the surviving generation. Don’t let time and distance do its damage. One of you already knows how bad that is as between father and daughter. This is your chance to save something that you will desperately need as you move into old age. You will want to have a relationship with each other. If you wait too long, the rubicon cannot be crossed. The loss, I assure you, will be deep and hurt hard.
So I hope these words reach you both. As any father, all I want for each of you is a lifetimes of happiness; however you find it. All I can say is that a part of your future happiness will come from having a connection one to another. I hope you find it and avoid the lessons and pain I suffered. I pray you never feel such angst.
Enjoy the day and the rest of your lives.