The Letter

A very, very strange thing happened recently. My sister got a letter, addressed to all of us sibs, from the President of the United States of America.

George W. Bush.

It was a letter of condolence on the death of our father, two and a half years ago.

Weird, huh? There was no indication of the letter having been forwarded through abandoned or obsolete addresses – It simply took 2 ½ years to get to us. My dad hated George W. Bush, but at some point, between September 2007 when my dad died, and January, 2008 when George Bush’s career died, he signed a letter, addressed to four siblings, offering condolences and thanking my dad posthumously on his years of service.

Too bad it wasn’t from Obama, who I knew my dad was rooting for. There are endless things I wish my dad could have lived to see – so trite to even say that. I wanted him to live to see a dandelion turn gray and feathery on his front lawn as much as I wanted him to live to meet my second daughter or live to watch one more episode of Ghost Whisperer.

But I do wish he could’ve made it to inauguration day. He would have been pleased, and he would not have made fun of Aretha Franklin’s hat. Ok, maybe he would have. They would have been very stupid jokes that would have made me giggle, or more likely, he would just have exclaimed, What the hell does she have on her head?! I would have laughed at that too.

So I wish he could have seen Aretha’s hat.

And the Superbowl that year. Goddamn, the Giants won for the first time since 1991 (I did not know that off-hand. I had to look it up. If my dad were still alive, I would have called him to find out when the last time the Giants won the Superbowl was.) I can’t believe the NY Giants won the Superbowl the year my dad died. My sister said it was a sign that my dad is ok. I like that theory better than mine at the time, which was that, the universe just fucking sucks.

I know it is the natural order of things to lose your parents. They say that more and more kids these days will not know their grandparents. But I didn’t wait until I was 40 to start having kids. I was done having them by 32, and my dad was not 90 when he died. He had just turned 65.

But that was 2 ½ years ago. But in matters of grief and death and mourning and loss and coping and moving forward, time is elastic. Some days it feels like I haven’t had my dad with me in decades, life has changed so much since he died. Some days it feels like it was maybe just yesterday, and I can summon the moment, when I am standing in my living room, belly swollen with my second daughter’s impending birth, and my sister calls from my dad’s bedside in Florida to tell me it will be soon, but she has been telling me that for days, so I ask my friend, who is standing next to me, if she and her daughter want to stay for dinner; nothing fancy, just a frozen pizza. And she says sure, and the kids play for a about half an hour, and then the phone rings again and my sister is on the other end, crying, and she tells me, and I just say, Ok, and I hang up and I go and put two frozen pizzas in the oven, and they both burn as I wait for my husband to get home, get home, please come home.

And that was 2 ½ years ago, but I can still make it feel like it was 2 ½ hours ago, and so, for now, I’m not going to hate George W. Bush, because with the arrival of his letter, he validated the grief process and understood that loss and the people attached to that loss are still important, still missed, still appreciated, still loved and that pain of losing them still fucking sucks 2 ½ years later.



  1. Oh, Karen. I get this and yet I am so angry that 2 1/2 years and a presidential election seems an adequate time lag for letting a veteran's family know the value of their parent to the country.

  2. Oh, I wish I had some helpful words. Miss you. Thinking of you.

  3. I don't think that knowing it's the natural order of things makes loss any easier. And things like this? They can bring it back all over again.

    I'm sorry for your loss.

  4. I am shocked by the lag, and yet somehow - as you have captured- it seems still fitting.

    I might write to president Obama and tell him how much your father would have liked the letter signed by him :)


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