Dear Bill and Margaret,
You really screwed up. Neither of you had any right to become a parent. Nobody thinks it was a good idea. Nobody. I'm just the only person who's willing to say it out loud.
Your daughter couldn't possibly verbalize such a thing. How could she? You spent more than half a century terrorizing her, making her feel less than worthy, and doing everything you could to see that she turned out to be as fucked up and as miserable as you were.
Well, she's not as fucked up, or as miserable.
No thanks to either of you.
Yet I can't say that I wish you hadn't become parents. If not for that decision, I never would have met Cynthia. We couldn't have introduced ourselves during that long walk on the sand along the Pacific back in '85, or gotten married, or gone to Paris together. We wouldn't have the supportive friends that we have today, or be able to skip out of work on slow afternoons to catch a movie or meet up at home to make love. I'd be planning for retirement with somebody else's daughter right about now, not yours. And I really wouldn't want to be doing that.
Don't expect me to say thank you. Even if both of you were still alive, I'd never be able to manage that. Cyn got lucky to fall in with a better class of people, that's all. It could have easily gone the other way. She's damaged goods, thanks to you two assholes. But at least she can feel joy and experience the love of another person some of the time, which is more than I can say for her lousy parents.
I'll never understand you two. You had it all going on after leaving Harvard Law: great jobs, lots of money, beautiful homes in California and Washington, D.C., an apartment in Manhattan—the works. I know I've told you this before, but do you know what "the works" meant for parents where I grew up? It meant having a car that ran and an apartment big enough that your bedroom was more than six feet away from where your kids slept. That was living! Only I knew plenty of people who didn't have the car or the well-placed bedroom, but still figured they had it pretty good—so long as their kids were happy and safe and loved them.
And then there's you guys.
Did you really think that threatening to hack to death Cyn's 8-week-old puppy when she was a little girl amounted to good parenting, Bill? I know you hated taking that job in L.A. and all, but still. Or what about the new Caddy you took a bat to after losing that big antitrust case in Washington in the late-'60s? Cyn only needed a couple of stitches after the driver's side window shattered a few yards from where she was playing on the lawn, so what? No biggie.
She still has nightmares about you and that goddamn puppy. In the middle of the night, I'll hear your daughter make those awful wailing sounds, feel her tossing in our bed the way she does every time she has "the puppy dream." For two or three days after that, she just isn't the same. She's more quiet than usual, doesn't smile or laugh. Sometimes I see that she's been crying, but after that dream, nothing I do makes her feel better.
Nice work, Bill. Between the violent outbursts inside your house and your volatility outside of it (yeah, I've heard those stories), it's a wonder somebody didn't go and put you in the ground before the cancer did.
And don't think you're getting off so easy, Margaret. Your husband may have been a prick, but nobody put a gun to your head and forced you to pick him—or to stay with him all those years. A woman with your background, education and intelligence should have known better. You should have done something.
Your daughter needed you to protect her and you didn't. Far as I'm concerned, you're as responsible for Cyn's emotional scars as that husband of yours. By not acting to protect Cyn from the damage that Bill inflicted, you basically picked him over your own daughter. What kind of a mother does that?
Your daughter, of course, is another story entirely. You and Bill were the only family she ever had, and so, for years, she made extraordinary efforts to forgive both of you. I'm not blind to the fact that things settled down a lot as you all got older, that we even managed to spend time together peacefully over holidays and birthdays and anniversaries. I also believe that deep down you loved your daughter, that if you could rewrite history, you would.
But I'm not your daughter. I don't have to love or forgive you. My job, much as yours once was, is to love and protect Cyn as best I can. And that's what I've been doing and will continue to do until the day I die.
You should have given it a shot when you had the chance.