I am not sure how many letters I will get to write you, I am still of sound mind, but my body is getting weaker and weaker. I have so much that I need to say to you. Things that I should have said a long time ago but didn’t. Things that you are going to need to make it through life’s rollercoaster without me.
Do you remember the first time that you called me from Boston upset? You wanted so badly to be back home with me, but what did I tell you? Do you remember? You probably don’t. I told you to suck it up and enjoy yourself. Addy, I want you to do that again. You are a young, beautiful, smart, creative woman. You have the potential to find a wonderful man and make a wonderful wife if you’d just let go of the past and move on.
I know my letters have been mostly about your relationship with your Daddy, but I can’t tell you enough times that you’ve got it all wrong when it comes to him. He loves you, despite how hard you’ve worked to make him pay for his mistakes. His mistakes-- I know all about them, baby girl. I never wanted to tell you because you worked so hard to keep me from knowing, but I know. I always knew from the start. If you had looked a little harder at me, you’d have seen that I made plenty of mistakes myself. You didn’t want to see them, but they were right there before your eyes.
I want you to think long and hard about it. Dig deep inside yourself and look for times when you ignored my short-comings. Take a good long look, because it is important for you to see that I am and have always been just a human like the rest of the world. I am not so different from your Daddy or even your sister. Part of living includes making mistakes.
And after you look at my mistakes, take a look at your’s too. This won’t be easy, but do it anyway.
All for now and all my love,
I took my daily dose with a grain of salt. I knew good and well that Mama’s mistakes paled in comparison to Father’s, but I also knew that I had to heed her advice. I folded the letter, slid it into my bag, and headed inside. I thought about the things that Mama had written, I thought about the time that I called home from Boston. I was miserable and alone. I felt millions of miles away from the one person who I knew could ease the pain. And what had she told me? Suck it up. And she wanted me to do the same exact thing now.
How do you redefine the way you’ve viewed your Father for sixteen years? I have lived longer hating him than I had lived loving him. It wasn’t going to be easy to accept his blatant disregard for his marriage, but because Mama asked me to, I had to try. I had to forgive him. I didn’t really know where to start, but knew that I had to start.
“Did Junior kiss you?” Penny and I were sitting across from each other a the table eating Chinese take-out.
“Did he try?” Penny could see that she was getting under my skin.
“No, Penny. He is a gentleman!” I wondered if he had wanted to kiss me, wondered if I gave off the impression that I didn’t want him to, and wondered if I would even know how to kiss him back.
“Gentlemen kiss on the first date. Addy, forget anything that you think you know and just go with it.” Penny’s advice was unasked for, but made sense. What did I know? Nothing.
“Okay.” I shoveled rice into my mouth and daydreamed about my first kiss.
“I saw another letter from the stack missing today.” She studied my face, and again I got the impression that Penny was waiting for me to discover something within the letters.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Anything good?” she inquired.
“Yes, they are all good. They all make me dig a little deeper into myself. My assignment seems to be to learn how to like Father…” I felt my eyes roll automatically at the mention of his name-- something I would have to work on.
“What has she said about him?”
“She says that he is not as bad as all that.” I smiled, not wanting to share any thing more from the letters. They were meant for me. They were my own little private pieces of Mama. Then it hit me, that was the exact opposite of the attitude that Mama would want me to have. I had to stop idolizing her, and start looking at her with more normal eyes. “She says that we all make mistakes, and that he made mistakes. She knew about his affairs the whole time, I was wasting my time trying to protect her from it.”
“You weren’t wasting your time! Don’t say that.” Penny frowned, obviously disturbed by what I was saying.
“But she knew already.”
“She knew, but she also got to see how much you loved her! You loved her enough to put her before yourself. Not many people do that for other people. Maybe that is why she never told you she knew. Hell Addy, maybe she was protecting you too!” Penny was grabbing the edge of the table.
I had never thought about it that way. Maybe by letting me protect her, Mama was protecting me. Maybe she knew that protecting her gave me a reason to push on and to keep from blowing Father’s cover for the world to see. Maybe she was protecting him, and Anna, and me, and herself all at once. Maybe I wasn’t the great protector after all. “Thanks Penny,” I whispered.
“For what?” She was staring straight at me, a plate full of cold Chinese food in front of her.
“For caring enough to turn your fingers white grabbing the table. You can let go now.” I smiled and headed toward the microwave with our plates. “Mama couldn’t have picked a better friend.”
“I hope you feel that way by the end of this.” Penny mumbled under her breath, but still loud enough for me to hear.
“It can’t be easy trying to lead me to the right conclusions and trying to help me see the things that Mama wanted me to see. I know I take it out on you sometimes, and I’m sorry.” I really couldn’t have made it even through the first letter without Penny.
“I’ll always be here for you, Addy.” Penny took a big bite of her steaming food. “Always.”
“It means a lot.” I smiled, pulling my own plate from the microwave and digging in.