Dear Dad,

by Elouise

I need to write this letter to you, but I don’t know where to begin. So much happened to me and in me when I was a child and teenager. I need to talk about this out loud and without shame. The only way I know to do that right now is in writing. You’re gone from this world; I’m still here, with a lifetime of experiences and memories. Many seem to begin with my relationship to you and yours to me.

Like you, I’m an intensely private person. But I’m not secretive, especially when speaking out could help clarify the truth about me or others. So I’ve been working all year on setting up a blog.

At first I was going to make it private—visible only to trusted friends and family members. The thought of strangers reading about me was terrifying.  But the more I worked on it, the more certain I became that this wasn’t the best way to go. In fact, making it private would only perpetuate a pattern that has protected me for most of my life.

So here I am, ready to go with the blog. Given the nature of my personal work, there’s no way I can talk about things that matter in my life without referring to things that happened to me as a child and young woman. Especially, but not only, things that happened between you and me. Sometimes they happened by design, sometimes because I happened to be in the same house with you whether I wanted to be or not.

What I’m saying is this: I’m not going to keep secrets anymore in order to protect you or myself. This isn’t because I don’t love you or respect you as my father. It’s because I’ve learned that loving and respecting myself as this woman with this family means I must tell the truth. Especially the truth about what happened inside me as I was growing up, how that played out in my adult life and how even now it sometimes haunts me. Where will this take me? I don’t yet know.

Here are some things I do know from listening to you and from reading things you’ve written about your family’s history. Day-to-day life was harsh and unpredictable, with unexpected twists and turns including natural disasters, war, the great depression, the death of your mother, and your father’s remarriage. Even more difficult was your own father’s unpredictable anger and physical violence.

I’ve learned a lot about you and your family from reviewing your family history. Now it’s time for me to tell some of mine. I grieve the reality that when you were alive, you didn’t seem interested in hearing about my internal struggles as a child and young woman. Perhaps it would have reminded you of your own painful journey. I don’t know.

I do know it’s time for me to speak.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 Dec 2013