Dear Dad, A Letter on December 6, 2020

A note: This post frankly talks about cancer and death.

This autumn my dad asked me to start a project with him. I suggested we write letters to each other based on how he used to write me cards as a kid. We’ve sent a few back and forth. It’s been beautifully healing.

We’ve both agreed to share them publicly. We feel it may bring some insight for others.

This is letter was written before 6am PST on December 6, 2020.

More might not come. Who knows?


Dear Dad: 

I woke up this morning and needed to write you. I know we don't have much more time. I want as many small things that help me stay connected to you as possible. I fear losing memories of you, and my memory isn't always the best. These letters will help me remember all of the beauty and love we share. 

I can't remember if Mr Gulner turned me on to Herman Hesse or not. I don't remember reading Hesse in his class. I found his book of fairy tales quite randomly while trying to find a book of fables to inspire some of my writing. I picked up his book because I liked the cover. The stories inside are so much more beautiful, insightful, and profound than I could have imagined. If you want, I can read one to you when I call today. They aren't too long. 

I know you might not be able to write much. That's ok. We can talk. And if that winds or exhausts you, we can dream together. You will always live in my dreams. It's restful there too. And you don't have cancer. There also isn't COVID-19. Plus the whole family, including your mom and sister, can join us. There's dancing and singing and laughing and card playing and endless football playing on the television there too.

I do not know if I have said this enough, thank you. Thank you for making me the person I am today. The path to who I be is one that's still evolving, growing, and will do so until I, too, no longer physically roam this material earth. You helped guide that path all throughout my childhood. I ventured into new territory on my own in my 20s. And for the last 15+ years, our two paths have started to converge again. They run parallel to each other now. I can feel you here with me in San Francisco. I wish you could visit the beach one last time. It's my favorite place here. I know you'd find it peaceful too. The waves right now are especially big and choppy; it makes an incredibly relaxing sound, one that makes dreaming easier. 

Thank you for your clarity of values even when those values might have been in conflict with my identity. I remember when I came out, and I demanded you cut ties with your friends who were not supportive of gay and lesbian folx; you refused. I was so hurt by that back then. I didn't understand how you couldn't have your son's back against your friends who called me names and in doing so also hurt you. You told me that you don't abandon your friends, even when things are difficult. You never gave up on them. I saw that even when it hurt me, and it left an indelible mark. I am equally loyal to my friends. 

As the storyteller of your cancer on CaringBridge, I get the honor of seeing the many returns of your loyalty, and it is beautiful. I may not remember everyone who is posting, and I may be distant from a lot of the folx that are close to you. This window into who you truly be (and not just who you want me to see) is magnificent. You impact all those around you. You always have. And you always will. 

Your faith is your foundation; it is that which binds you to your values of family and loyalty and compassion and care and joy and humor and justice and labor. That faith is expressed through Catholic ritual and prayer. It is the thing that comforts you during the midnight hours, and the thing that calms racing thoughts and excited nerves. 

Faith is my foundation too, and it does the same thing for me. It just isn't Catholic anymore. It's an amalgamation of all of the experiences I've had and dreams that I have dreamt. In that way, it is catholic, universal. And it binds me to my values of family (of choice and origin) and loyalty (to neighbors and to liberation) and (radical) compassion and (mutual) care and joy (as resistance) and humor (as healing) and justice (as the root of all action) and (worker-owned) labor. You are one of the rocks of my faith. You are a root that grows deep and drinks from the well of life and liberation. 

John and I went to Fort Point yesterday. I needed some space with water and few people, and the Marina and beaches were all a bit too packed, especially with so much COVID-19 floating in the air. Fort Point sits under Golden Gate bridge and is an old army barracks. Its plaster facade has been removed, revealing all of the intricate, red brick work that is its foundation. Some bricks laid are at angles the seem to defy gravity. They are held in place by the pressure exerted by the other bricks around it and a little mortar. This structure still stands. It survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. 

You are like Fort Point. Your facade has fallen, and I can see you fully. You are sturdy, weathered, have stood against the ocean and in defiance of earthquakes. You've never been glamorous; instead, you are functional. You hold space for gathering and defend that space for all within it. You are wide open while having brick borders that help frame the world around you. You may not be as frequently visited as the more famous landmark that towers above. But for those inside your walls, you are a thing of magnificence and glory. You are a respite from the chaos outside. You hold the ocean at bay.  

Thank you for all of who you be. Thank you for giving life to me. I know the structure of this life I have built is built on a strong foundation thanks to you. 

And from my position on the couch this morning as I write this letter to you with John by my side, I dream that you and mom and John and me are at Fort Point admiring all the little details that once were intentionally hidden behind the facade of white plaster and that have been revealed from a weathered and labored life lived. These are the details that I will remember. 

I love you,

Jason 


Image Descriptions: a series of photos taken at Fort Point the show the detail of the brick work.

Image description: A photo of John and me at the top of Fort Point. John is looking north with the back of his head to the camera. I am turned toward the camera, and a hot pink bandana covers my face. The Golden Gate bridge looms above us.