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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #888699
A father's letters to his adult daughter to be. UPDATED 1/31

As a soon to be divorced father of a 6-year-old daughter I have been prone to much retrospective thought as of late, mainly relating to what is the best path for my present unhappy life, and my soon to be single-parent life? Ultimately I know that my life and the course it now takes will forever impact on my beautiful daughter's life, something I try to be as cognizant as possible of while making these decisions. She is a precociously smart and incredibly cute child, possessing all the finest traits of each of her parents. My daughter has been without doubt, my blessing. It was these feelings, and my desire to give her something to help her along when she is older that inspired me to write to the adult self that she will eventually become.

In my own not too extraordinary life, I too, was the child of divorce, yet I in many ways was better prepared or so I thought. Unlike my daughter I had the support of my four siblings. In retrospect this may or may not have been what got me through, in so much as my solid grounded upbringing and all of the love that went into my childhood. I am reminded of this love repeatedly, often by small inconsequential moments and memories that neither of my parents had ever realized or even remembered until I told them. In one of my many heart to heart talks with my mother I related to her that some of my most vivid memories and happy thoughts related to the most benign or unimportant activities or events during my childhood. For example, parents tend to remember the big moments in their children's lives -- the home run, the first communion, the school play, etc.

Often times a child sees his childhood in much simpler terms, ones that have been burned into their consciousness. That moment for me is something so everyday it was lost to my mother until I reminded her. When I was a child there were still milk men, and bread men and of course the huckster selling vegetables door to door. For me this specific childhood memory was rooted in the Stroehman’s bread man and it was fascinating to my mother that I recalled the incident. I had always remembered the bread man going door to door with bread, cakes, pastries, and snacks, and how when we would see him coming we would instantly drop what we were doing to chase after him to buy a brownie for all of 10 cents! Not really much in the way of inspirational, all the same it illustrates my point. Often times many of our happiest and most contented memories are rooted in the most simple and inane moments. The lesson learned? I try to savor the small moments, private jokes, and inconsequential events in my daughter's life, realizing that one day these will be the very essence of her childhood memories of her childhood and me.

It took many years for me to reconcile the pain and hurt feelings I harbored towards each of my parents with regards to their own complicity in the failure of their marriage. Interestingly enough as I've grown I've come to discover more behind the scenes information regarding their divorce through in depth and frank discussions with each of my parents. Through our shared experiences and all the pain that goes with them, I've reconciled the many misconceptions of my childhood memories. My mother has on several occasions revealed to me facts I never knew, and certainly was never privy to. These are details that most likely had it not been for my present situation, may have never been revealed. My Dad has also provided glimpses into that childhood era in the late 1970s where so much of what I think and know about divorce was forged through the pain and embarrassment of watching my family split for whatever reasons. I say embarrassment because I remember being 14-years-old and being literally embarrassed to tell any of my friends that my parents were getting divorced. I wanted instead to have what I always had and what everyone else had, what seemed normal. Of course this wasn't to be the case. People divorce, split up, and things change, they always change.

I'm reminded of what a marriage mediator once told my wife and I as we tried to peacefully settle our differences. She said "divorce hurts most because this isn't the perception you had of what marriage was supposed to be, and you feel cheated" she went on to offer "once you accept that this is not the image you had for your life and move on to create a healthy healing environment for yourself and child, life begins anew". This was and still remains a healthy bit of information, as we all fall prey to defining ourselves in life by what we are a part of, and marriage is something that no one wants to fail at. That said I also am of the mind that my marriage not lasting was not a failure, it's a promise unfulfilled, it was a dream broken, but it will not be categorized in my mind as a failure.

We all learn more from our mistakes than we ever do our accomplishments, and I know that I am still processing the lessons learned. I also recognize that I am a much wiser and more sensitive person for having survived a divorce and it's effects on my child and me. On the contrary, I have probably worried much less for myself than I should have, focusing instead on my daughter, who as I said had no support of siblings. It is precisely because of my experience and not in spite of it that I will overcome. I will now begin to pick up the pieces and guide my daughter to the best possible solution. I will assure my daughter that she too will survive this change, and she will be a stronger, wiser and more sensitive person because of it as well.

My mother was and continues to be a source of great pride and joy in my life. I have an ease of communication with her that is neither taken for granted nor ignored. This is something we both appreciate and recognize the joy that this familiarity has afforded us over the years. I'm not saying we always agreed with each other and we never hurt each other's feelings, we did plenty of times. The difference is that we were always able to recognize the power of our words and their effects, something many people never recognize. Hurtful words can often inflict more pain than a punch. Still, many people who use language to hurt never apologize or endeavor to take back these words.

The process of becoming adult for many is a long one, and I was probably about average in the amount of time it took me, always wanting to delay many of the trappings of real adult responsibility. For me one of the truest rewards of being an adult is the ability to be on par if you will with a parent when it comes to frank, honest discussions of your relationship and lives. Knowledge of illuminating the past is often gained by these types of discussions and can help to explain your present. For if you can understand the reasons for the events of your childhood; you can often times make a connection to these events and better learn from them as an adult. This is exactly where I've been the past three years, asking more questions of my mother and discovering more about me, as both a person and the father that I strive to be. So Sophia if there is one lesson I've learned it is this, be open and honest with your loved ones, be not ashamed to admit your feelings and pain. One of the worst things you can do when someone has hurt you is hold back the words you long to say. Eventually these words will eat away at you; you must release them, and with them will go the anger.

I have long maintained a love of cooking and often thought of writing down the many creations that I've prepared in a casual cookbook. This would be something for my daughter to have when she is older, as a lot of my cooking has been done with her involvement. My mother instilled within my four brothers and me the ability and love of cooking, something I too have done increasingly with my daughter as she has grown. As a result I long to be more organized so that I might record these recipes and instill upon her a piece of her childhood which for me is going much to fast. I had always felt I wanted to write something; this painful experience has made me much more aware of my life and relationships the effect one has on the other. With these thoughts in mind, through it all I have become more confident in my ability to express through my writing my love, feelings and inadequacies as I have grown as both a person and a father. My love of cooking and the symbolism that food often plays in our lives provided the impetus for this endeavour. I always thought I would assemble the recipes and ingredients of my most loved dishes for my daughter someday. It has only been recently as my life has taken the path of discontentment that I have come to realize the healing nature of words, specifically the ones that are written from the heart.

It is in this vain that I now attempt to write to my daughter and explain certain events that are now taking place in her innocent young life. I write so that I as her father may impart the wisdom and the pain the joy and the love that I have felt as a father, son, husband and brother. It is my profound hope that as my beautiful Sophia matures and comes to know life's harsh realities and splendid joys she will be able to look into my soul and come to know the events and people who would shape her life and personality. Even more importantly I want her to have a first person account of these profound events so that she may better understand and know the events of her life. Knowing as I write this that as she becomes a woman she will someday want to discuss these events openly and honestly. I look forward to these adult conversations with her, perhaps enjoyed over a delicious meal she prepares.

As of this writing I am embroiled in what could only be described a modern tragedy of love, prepared -- albeit hesitantly, to decide our daughter's future as Laura and I navigate our way through our marriage's demise. Laura and I have been together 10 years, and in one week we will have been married seven. For the last 3 years our marriage has been dying a slow, painful and often mean death as she has reluctantly come to terms with the traumatic childhood experience of sexual abuse by a family member. This abuse has wrought devastating results on both her ability to be married to anyone, least of all me. More importantly her own true personality and self-focus have been lost, something which has manifested itself in our marriage. We are now left to decide the future for our equally loved and adored child for whom both of our worlds has revolved for six years.


"Don't marry the woman you can live with, marry the woman you can't live without"


1 cup of pancake mix
1 egg
2/3 cup of whole milk
1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil

Mix ingredients while heating skillet medium high, pour batter in
3-inch circles, and allow holes to form then flip. Serve with butter
and syrup.

Dear Sophia,

Let me tell you my beautiful child, that if you don't still, you certainly did love pancakes as a child! We would wake up on Sunday I would grab a big bowl and let you crack the egg (shell and all) into it, then I would measure out the ingredients and let you pour them all in. Next I would get the whisk and watch, as you would mix as much in the bowl as you would out, this was the part you really loved. Then I would place a high stool from the kitchen counter as close to the stove as caution would allow and I would pour those hot cakes out. You always would ask me to flip them up to the ceiling like a fancy chef, which I always did. Then you and I would have our apple juice and pancakes and watch your Sunday morning shows. This Sophie was our comfort food. The great thing about this food is that it's a truly American meal, as much engrained in my childhood as yours. I have fond memories of coming home after church with my brothers and having my Mom and Dad whip up some pancakes and sausages too. This makes it even more special to come full circle with a food that has such wonderful childhood memories for me also. You know Sophie, comfort can be memories evoked as well as a food, even now I find comfort in that memory and certain innocence we all had then. Life is all about the pursuit of comfort my child; comfort materially, emotionally and physically. The one thing I've come to know through much heartache and pain is that there is no greater comfort than that of emotional comfort, that unspoken contentment within yourself -- for yourself. This Sophia is what we all strive for, to be at peace, to be happy, and to give and receive love. Not that all the other comforts aren't important, it's just important to remember that when your feeling like crap emotionally a new car really doesn't change anything. It's just a car and you're still not happy, you just happen to look good while you're unhappy.

As for memories I want you to know that your Mother and I weren't always at odds with each other; on the contrary we were very in love and had a comfort with each other that though it was short lived, will always remain. Your Mother and I met in the winter of 1994, I was living in a small college town outside of Philadelphia and she was living in Manhattan. I occupied the second floor of a huge old Victorian house with twelve-foot ceilings, eight-foot doors and the beautiful hardwood floors that were standard in houses of this type. There was living above me, a student from Venezuela who was attending the local university. One cold day in February she knocked on my door to ask me a favor. She wanted to know if I could pick up some of her friends at the Swarthmore train station, as she had no car and they had no idea where they were going. Of course I told her I would and proceeded to ask how many and when they would arrive, imagine my surprise when she said there were about 10? I knew I wasn't going to fit that many people in my little car, so I called your uncle Chris and asked if he could come over with his car also so that we could pick up this group of internationals from the train station. Unbeknownst to me at the time was that your mother already had my phone number and took it upon her self to call me when she arrived, before ever calling her friend. She told me that they were in Swarthmore and that they all had costumes on. Apparently this was to be a "carnival" party so there were men dressed as women, women dressed as men; there was even a Fidel Castro! Well Swarthmore is a tiny little Quaker town, so you can only imagine the site of this band of merry makers waiting in the chilly sunshine of that glorious February day. Of course leading the group was your Mother, dressed in an ankle length evening gown, with a platinum blonde wig like Marilyn Monroe. She walked over to my car and let herself in the front seat, sat down and said "hello Tom…Ted…I mean Tim!"

I can honestly say at this moment my heart skipped. I knew, at that moment, she was unlike anyone I had ever met; she was one of a kind. It was February 12, 1994, and this was to start my ten years with your mother. Your uncle and I had gotten everyone picked up, so it was off we all went to surprise my neighbor, where there was to be a carnival party all night long. Your Mother and I had an instant rapport and comfort with each other. As I recall she wound up staying for the next three days, even after all of her friends had gone back to New York. This was the beginning of all that brought you into our lives, and the basis for why we came to Florida. I never wanted to leave the north, that was your grandfather's idea, something I would come to regret as time progressed. Still in all the confusion and heartache there are certain things I would never change, and our time together can never be diminished by the outcome. I would do it all again if it meant that's what had to be done to bring you into my life. Your life was a comfort to your mother and I in an ever-changing landscape of confusion and upset which was ultimately decided by our divorce.

In my life I have not felt any greater discomfort than that of the emotional pain caused by the loss of the love and continuity of my wife's presence and our marriage. The comfort was intense, and it burned brightly for seven of the ten years we were together, years that were further enhanced by your presence in each of our lives. Your spirit Sophia was so richly and genuinely felt that in many ways it provided each of us a vital comfort in what will easily be considered the most painful period of your mother's and my lives. Luckily for you, you can be assured that your mother and I are so enamored with you that you shall make it through this period, scratched - though not permanently I'm sure. My commitment to your tender little psyche and happy childhood is made stronger still by these developments in all of our lives. My main goal throughout this ordeal has been to constantly search my soul and inner voice to do what's best for you in the most unselfish of ways. Of course like any divorce the road to emotional recovery is littered with selfish decisions, mean words, and harsh realities. This is not something anyone really wants; yet something that is unavoidable due to the raw emotional wounds that such a life-altering event causes. I long for the comfort and contentment that were once ours, where we preferred each others company over anyone else's.

I remember all too well when my own parents divorced and how when my mother left with my older brother Chris, and younger brother Scott how empty I felt. She left my brother Rob and me to be with my father in our now half empty house, not by her choice but by ours. Our unwillingness to go with my mom was both because of a loyalty we felt for our father, as well as a condemnation of the whole process which was causing us this pain. I remember when my mother left, so did the emotional comfort in my life. My father had taken to drinking in the bar after work and often times I was left to prepare the meal and keep an eye on my younger brother. This was such a role reversal, something that really changed me; I knew I was not just a kid anymore. In retrospect, I can see now how much this depressed me as a teen-ager, and how all I really wanted was my family to be made complete again. I knew this was something that was never going to be, yet something I would long for still for many years to come.

It would only be years later after much self-examination and family upsets that I would again find that comfort within family members and myself. Surrendering to change, and allowing it to happen only achieved this. The hardest part for me was starting anew with relationships; acknowledging that they were indeed changed, yet still the same people with the same common histories and memories. Once I accepted the reality that some people don't stay together, and that change in life is inevitable, I was able to rediscover the family I never really lost. Still it was hard; I had to take a circuitous route to end up there, but I did indeed wind up in the right place emotionally in the end. This Sophia is the greatest challenge to emotional comfort; the ability to cut through the petty crap that will attempt to hold you back in relationships, with both family and friends. Of course much of what you will or will not face will be decided on how your mother and I conduct ourselves. This of course is something I hope to learn to grow from emotionally, though I suspect there will a rough period for the obvious reasons of resentment and the hurt that this has caused so many people.

This book was written for you as an adult to realize that there were certain events you will both want and need to understand. As you mature and become an adult you will want to make sense of all that has become of yours and your parent's lives, hopefully this will help. The important thing to always remember is that despite the pain and upset, your mother and I loved each other very much. Unfortunately, as is often the case in life, love sometimes isn't enough. You can be sure that the love with which you were conceived was a love borne of our intense comfort, love and enjoyment with each other. While our breakup was regrettably sad, it is not something that should define the fabric of who you become; you should take comfort that your mother and I are forever linked by your presence in our lives. Therefore, Sophia like a pancake meal on a chilly Sunday, you have been my comfort and my joy, and I can honestly say I cannot smell a pancake cooking without thinking back to your little hands mixing that batter all over the counter. That Sophia is a comforting thought.

With Love, Papi


You can pick friends, but you can't pick your family

Pasta Sophia

1/2 lb ground beef
2 cloves of garlic
sea salt
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup penne pasta
1 small can of sweet corn

Finely chop garlic cloves and saute in olive oil
boil 2 qts. of water add sea salt and cook 1 cup of penne pasta
add ground beef to skillet, season with pepper, oregano and salt
Drain pasta add butter to taste along with corn and ground beef.

Dear Sophia,

Well this is the one. You loved this meal more than any other meal I would make, you must have eaten penne pasta two nights a week as a child. I eventually had to invent ways to include other nutrition, so I added corn and beef and I gave it a smart new name so you'd love it even more. You were my greatest critic too; you almost would not eat anywhere else telling the mothers of your friends "I only eat my Papi's cooking." Well Sophia your flattery got you everywhere with me, and I'm sure your kind happy nature will take you even farther. I now, more than ever feel a real sense of isolation as I've come to realize you are the only family I have within a thousand miles, yet you're all I need. Your presence in my life has guided me and made me respond to the highest calling, that of a father. I am grateful to God for allowing me the opportunity to have such a wonderful family.

If you're lucky Sophia your family will be your closest friends and most supportive confidants in your life. I suspect that although it requires me to look into our collective futures, you too will feel this way yourself when you are older; at least I hope you will. I was raised in a middle class suburban town outside of Philadelphia in the 1970s, a time of great social change and upheaval. What my family lacked in material wealth was supplanted with such intangibles as happiness, laughter and lots of love. This in many ways probably sounds a bit corny I know, but your Papi had a very fun childhood due mainly to his parent's sense of humor and youth. It helped also that I had four brothers all closely grouped in age, and we lived on a street with dozens of children. I was the third son of five; my mother was 22 years old and my father was 29 when I was born. Life mustn't have been easy for them on my father's truck driver salary and my mother at home all day with three young children and no car. Soon to follow me was your uncle Rob and then five years later your uncle Scott was born in 1970, this was to be a very defining year my life.

I was not exactly blessed with perfect health in my youth and early on it was clear that there was something seriously wrong, as I was sickly as a child. My mother was pregnant at the time with my brother Scott; I had been in and out of several hospitals where doctors had been trying to diagnose the cause of my illnesses. I had been experiencing blurry vision, high fevers and painful urination. On more than one occasion I was hospitalized and misdiagnosed with meningitis, until finally our family pediatrician had ordered a renal function test which quickly revealed my problem. I was suffering from kidney disease, specifically my left kidney had failed as such I had been poisoning my system for over a year. Before I knew it I was in hospital undergoing a kidney removal and bladder operation, I awoke to strange surroundings with tubes and machines hooked up to my skinny little body, I was seven years old.

This was all a very strange and almost dreamlike occurrence in my young life, I was in a private hospital bed, away from my brothers and parents for the first time in my life. I knew, although not to what extent, that I was very ill. The environment was so strange, the sterility of the polished floors and the smell of disinfectant permeated my world for a good month. I still can remember coming to after being unconscious for what was probably a day. I saw my mother and father standing over me, a sight I can still recall in my memory. I was still suffering the effects of the ether which was the preferred method of anesthesia at that time. I was not allowed any water or food, not that I even wanted to eat. My mother would gingerly feed me ice chips, which would stimulate an almost immediate bout of vomiting. The whole experience was a nightmare, and it would only get worse as my mother and father would have to leave for night and I would cry myself to sleep. For their parts the nurses that staffed that pediatric ward were angels and would provide as much maternal reassurance as they could. I was however very lucky to have a grandmother who was an Registered Nurse, she would on many occasions sit throughout the night in my room and act as my private nurse. This was incredibly comforting to a scared 7-year-old. I still remember the religious medals she would pin to my pillow while doing her rosary beads all night long while as I slept in the comfort of her presence. Within days after my surgery I was up and attempting to walk a few steps down the hallways and I began adjusting to my new surroundings. However, this was very difficult at first due to the catheter that was in my bladder; I managed and was soon on the mend.

I soon became the favorite of the nurses and was almost feeling comfortable with all the attention, not to mention the gifts, which would be arriving daily to my room. In the years that have passed since this traumatic period, I've replayed many of these experiences back in my dreams and memories, some I've shared, though many I have not. The one permanently etched memory for me is the sight of my pregnant mother coming everyday in the morning and afternoon to see me. She would arrive around breakfast and see to it that I ate the various items of fresh peaches, corn flakes, and apple juice as my picky eating habits were notorious. Then we would go into the hallways where I was to practice walking, and eventually we would resign to the day room to read some books watch some television. The days were rather repetitive, the highlight of my days would be my father's visits later in the day.

My dad to us was obviously like all kids dad's, bigger than life. He drove an eighteen-wheel truck for Railway Express out of Philadelphia often to different points in the tri-state area, yet somehow he was always there when I was sick. I can vividly remember that there was an alley that ran behind the pediatric ward which was on the first floor. Along this alley way the windows which faced out were the type of smoked glass windows you'd see in a sliding glass shower door, so you could never see clearly what was on the other side. When my father would arrive you could make out the blurry outline of the red cab of the truck and then the long snaking blurry green trailer riding past. It would begin with a low rumble and grow louder until I was certain it was he. He would then park and come in with what at the time could only be described as heavenly sustenance McDonalds. He would eat the meal of the day in exchange for the burgers, which was absolute bliss. We would then hang out and talk and he would make a big fuss with the nurses and then like that he'd be back on his route and gone. I recall how these visits by both of my parents had such power to lift me up and give me hope, they were my connection to the outside, and to my brothers also, who I had not seen now for weeks.

This experience was to shape my view of parenting and family for many years to come. First to parenting, it was not until I had you as a child that I realized how hard that must have been for my parents. The utter sense of helplessness is overwhelming when your child is sick and there is nothing you can do. Of course your mother and I have never had to experience this and God willing we won't, though I have felt that feeling when you were sick with an ear infection or flu. How they persevered and pushed on with three other children at home and one on the way I'll never know, it is to me a study in parenting. I can greater appreciate their courage and sacrifice the older I become, it makes me pause in gratitude. They must have wanted to just cry seeing me there all hooked up to machines and bandaged around my torso, I can't imagine what that must have felt like for them. As for family, all I can say is I was very blessed to have a wonderful one.

I have fours brothers with equally diverse personalities and interests, all of who were my playmates throughout my childhood. They all eagerly awaited my return and did all sorts of things to ease me back. My parents even went so far as immediately enrolling me in summer camp at the YMCA, as I had lain in bed for over a month and was in need of some physical activity. This was something of a luxury at the time, since no one else in my family had ever attended camp. One of bigger regrets surrounding this divorce Sophia is that I wanted for you to also be surrounded by many brothers and sisters. Of course we know that wasn't to be because of the hand fate had dealt us, your mother and I were not to have more children. I have touched on what good family is, and what a blessing it is to have one. In many ways you are an only child because of bad family. Your mother's childhood experiences at the hand of her father, as well as his constant meddling in all of his children's adult lives was the main reason our marriage failed and why we didn't obviously go on to have more children.

I made up my mind when I decided to write to you that I was not going to make this about what "he" had done, because in all fairness that's for your mother to tell. I will say however that unfortunately your mother was unable to make a choice of "our" family over her family. Your grandfather in many ways was a good man, generous, kind and funny. Yet all of the gold in China could not excuse his sins to his family, specifically his daughter, your mother. This period that I am now living has been the single hardest period of events in all of my 41 years, and I blame one man, your mother's father. Even to this day as we stand poised to go to court to settle what is best for your future, your mother cannot separate from him. On many levels I can understand this since he is after all her father and her family. No family lives without skeletons in their closet, and my family by no means was perfect. I guess the difference was we were able to admit we weren't, and able to right whatever wrongs we caused each other. For whatever reasons your mother's entire family knew of this abuse and chose to back your grandfather instead of your mother, me, and our family. I will not soft peddle the effects this had Sophia, your mother was on many occasions extremely despondent and was eventually prescribed anti- depressants and therapy, both of which she refused. She became further and further estranged from me and behaved in ways she never had even when she was single. I for my part asked for help from her family and mental health professionals, each were unable to help, one by choice and the latter by your mother's unwillingness to participate.

This Sophia was an extreme case of family dysfunction. For whatever reasons your mother's entire family was guilty of complicity for not standing up to their father after discovering the truth. I knew as I watched your mother grow further and further from the person I had known that she may never be able to stand up to this man, and certainly wasn't going to be able to without the help of her family. I also understood that when I took the stand of not wanting to be near this man ever again, and not wanting to hold your mother's secret any longer that I was essentially admitting that my marriage was over. This Sophia was a family without moral direction or conscience, and I could never coexist with such people again. This family was one of total denial and pain, they all had been equally hurt for sure by Laura's revelations, though at times it seemed as if they wished she'd just move on and "get over it," as evidenced by the total lack of nurturing and understanding by even your grandmother towards your mother. This was not something I had ever seen; a family this corrupted by one man and everyone unwilling or unable to confront him. This of course was not my description of what family means and I knew then that my main goal was to protect you - my family, at any cost to me or my name, regardless of the outcome. I pondered long and hard my path; I sought counsel from both family, and professionals because I knew that what was at stake was not your mother's survival or her family's reputation, or even my triumph over this monster. What were on the line were your safety, your childhood and your right to a safe upbringing which wouldn't include lies and exposure to danger.

I remember just before you mother and I were to be married in 1997, your mother's parents had been pressuring us to get married when her father began moving ahead with his plan. Although they were resigned to the fact that we were indeed going to marry, I knew in many ways I did not fit their image of what they had hoped for - a groomed society man with a connected family. It was around this time that my mother, with her penchant for correctness decided that since she had not heard from your mother's parents she should initiate a call to them and introduce herself. The call was apparently well received because soon after they commented to me that they had spoken with my mother and how nice she had seemed. When I asked my mother how it had gone she commented that it went well, and that Laura's father kept commenting "what a nice young woman I was marrying" and seemed to be focusing so much on his daughter, which in many ways is only natural. Yet there was something that irked my mother still and I could tell she was holding back obviously aware of not wanting to start off on the wrong foot. Of course my future father-in law was Latin and quite outspoken, whereas my mother was a very confident independent single professional woman. She was not someone who would be a natural fit for Laura's father's personality, nor his for my mother's. The point was, that whatever he was going on about my mother didn't care for, as a result she hand wrote a letter to them that night. Anyone who knows your grandmother knows she writes a great letter, and really knows how to get her point across. She would later reveal to me (after being told of its letter's arrival) that she felt compelled to write the letter to inform your mother's parents that she had no doubt what a wonderful daughter in law she was gaining. She just felt that they too should also know what a wonderful son in law they also would be gaining. She wanted to let them know also how happy she was with the union and that what a wonderful son and man I was. She told them that once they had an opportunity to get to know me like she had gotten to know their daughter, they too would see this. This Sophia was the woman my mother was, one full of pride and always quick to right what wrongs she felt needed righting. This was the family I was from; what she did was not something I needed her to do, but her actions spoke volumes at the time as I was to learn, that there are certain levels of class that are not dictated by wealth. This Sophia, was the character of the family I had.

The truth is that in many ways I am your "family" now, at least your immediate, natural one, your mother had made her choice that her family was her father and his lies. It was now up to me to stand up to a man that had controlled anyone around him either by intimidation, or money, and I was not to be controlled by either. I was now able to see so clearly the lessons I had been given and the moral justness of my family. We were not brought up with much material wealth, yet I had a richness that could not be bought, I had a loving middle class Catholic upbringing, guided by respect and love. I knew the difference between right and wrong, and this Sophia, was all wrong and I was not going to be a part of this lie anymore. I was especially wary since he would have access to you without me now being there. Who knows how this will all play out and how time will view this? One thing I do know is this; that I never once as a parent based one decision with regard to you as my child without putting your interests first. That my dear is what family does. Family is not selfish, nor does it allow it's members to fall victim to harm, rather it defends and protects each other against all threats, and so help me I will.

Love, Papi


It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.

--Alfred Lord Tennyson

Crispy Salmon over stir fried Cabbage

LB. of fresh skinned salmon filet
1 tsp of sea salt
3 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 head of cabbage shred fine
1 Tbsp of onion powder
1 Tbsp of soy sauce

Heat skillet on medium high heat then add olive oil.
Have salmon already prepared with salt and pepper on both sides and place in pan
Fry salmon on first side for about 5-7 minutes or until golden crisp
Flip salmon and repeat on other side
Once salmon is crispy remove and turn flame to medium and add cabbage,
onion powder and soy, stir fry for about 1 minute serve salmon over a
bed of cabbage

Dear Sophia,

Here's a recipe that your Mami and Papi loved. I hope that by the time you're an adult you'll love fish more than you do now and will want to make this dish. As it stands now you're more of a "fish stick" type of girl when it comes to ocean delicacies. Sophia, one of the greatest aspects of growing up for me was having a very loving family. That isn't to say your uncles and I didn't try to kill each other on a daily basis, because we did. What I mean to say is I grew up with friends who really didn't have the love I had, and even then I could recognize that missing ingredient. My mother was never sparing in her praise or hugs, devoting many quality hours to us. One of the highest forms of love I was shown was the love of books and music. This was something both of my parents had an affinity towards, especially books when it came to your Nana. One of my fondest memories (which Nana had forgotten also) was when I was a child growing up on Lasher road in Drexel Hill there was a curious vehicle which would arrive every week and park at the bottom of our street on Cheswold Avenue. Every Wednesday that most curious sight I had ever seen would appear again - the bookmobile! It was as big as a Greyhound bus and it had an entrance in the front and one in the rear and it was chock full of books. I can still remember warm summer nights walking to the bookmobile with my Mom, ready to discover a whole new world of books, the year was 1971 and life was much different than today. For starters books had a different value, since there was no Internet, no video games, and only about seven channels on TV; reading was a way of escaping to another time or place.

Of course there were many other loves in my life, baseball being one of them. Once I turned the corner with my health I began to put on weight and I resumed my illustrious little league career. Uncle Chris and uncle Rob and I were all baseball junkies. My "breakout" year was 1971 with Hurley's Oil; I still remember that season. Dad would take us all to the park which happened to be over by MomMom's house, once there we'd all split up to our perspective fields and my Mom and Dad would make their rounds watching us as best they could. There was another great love that was also instilled very early on in our lives and that was the "shore." Anyone in Philly knows the "shore" refers to the New Jersey beaches, specifically for us it was either Beach Haven or Ocean City. Some of my fondest memories of our family together were formed on the beaches and boardwalks of the Jersey shore.

I can clearly remember the summer after my surgery going to Beach Haven for two weeks. It was the vacation we all looked forward to, a time when the summer seemed to stretch on forever, something days seem to do when you're a kid. We stayed in a little bungalow down the street from the bay, that had a decent size beach as I remember. Just around the corner was an arcade where my brothers and I would eagerly surrender fistfuls of quarters in the skittle bowl and pinball machines. I should mention that my grandmother would supply each of my brothers and me a ten dollar roll of quarters upon our departure from Philadelphia to be used for our visits to the arcade. I realize that this sounds like such a measly amount of money, this of course would have had to be put into the context of the times. The year was 1971, a game of skittle bowl was ten cents, a pinball machine was ten cents for one play and twenty-five cents for three, so that ten dollars would probably get us through three days of activity. Of course that left quite a bit more time in which we would start in on dad for surplas funds. How either of my parents was able to relax in retrospect is beyond me, five boys ages one through eleven certainly made for an interesting vacation that was for sure.

One very vivid memory of that summer was my kite. I guess childhood was much simpler when I was a kid, because you're hard pressed to find a child flying a kite much these days, whereas when I was a kid it was a real treat. I remember my kite very well it was the Red Baron. It was a day glow yellow plastic kite with the Red Baron emblazoned across the front, and I flew it endlessly. One afternoon I decided to go the beach alone and fly the Red Baron. I had let the whole darn ball of string out and she was at top altitude, probably 500 feet. I tied the end of my line to a stick so as not to lose control of her, when all of the sudden I realized my knot tying skills weren't quite up to standard as I watched the red Baron break free of the stick. The sudden attack of utter panic and helplessness is something I can still recall even after all these years. I immediately launched myself into a high-speed sprint while franticly grasping for the dangling string as the kite effortlessly floated away. Try as I did, the string remained just out of reach, and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I ran further and further down the beach. The Red Baron was gone and I knew it. It was all I could do to collapse into tears as I watched the Red Baron float away, higher and higher, until suddenly, she lurched to the left, and seemed to begin her descent. I quickly collected myself and started after the tantalizingly dangling string yet again, much to my dismay it was descending rapidly but out of reach. Sadly the kite had descended over the ocean instead, again leaving me helpless to do anything to capture my kite; I could only watch as it peacefully settled upon the ocean hundreds of yards from shore.

This memory, for whatever reason has stayed with me as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I know it all happened because I have a picture of my parents and me on the beach, in it I'm holding the Red Baron proudly. This was as profound a love one could feel as an eight-year-old child, and I felt this loss dearly. Of course nothing erases that pain quicker than a new kite, though the replacement never seemed to fly as high or fast as the Red Baron did. I look at you now as a six-year-old and I see so many of the same traits I exhibited as a child. You seem to have a love for saving any card, letter or postcard you've ever received from anybody, and you're always quick to share these items with anyone who'll look at them with you. You're also quite taken with your newest collection-super balls from the grocery store dispenser by the exit. You must have sixty super balls at this point, an odd item to collect, though your reason isn't so much for what they are as it is for how they look. You love collecting the many colors and designs and have given each of them a name. I remember well my addiction to collecting baseball cards, fanatically buying a pack whenever I could get my hands on any loose change.

These Sophia are your loves, and at six-years-old I realize their importance in your life, because they are just that - yours. You are such a curious child in so many ways, with a varied love of so many different forms of expression, both emotionally and artistically. You have recently begun writing and illustrating your own books, all without prompt or help. This is something I find fascinating and curious, since I never saw a six year old do this type of activity. Again, this is what you love, and it is so wonderful for me to just sit back and watch you grow, something I will love doing for a long time.

One thing I have tried to do in my life has been to make sure I've told the people who mean the most to me how much I love and appreciate them. This Sophia is certainly a good habit to get in, one that I suspect you're already in judging by how many times we already tell each other. Your Mami and I, despite having been through so much over the past few years, have still maintained a love for each other and probably always will. Of course there is no greater love in our lives than the love we shared on July 9,1998 the day you were born. I remember well how your mother and I had the birth suite all prepared for your arrival. Mami brought her favorite pillow, flowers and some music as well. Mami and I had seen the movie Dangerous Beauty and we had bought the soundtrack which is beautiful orchestral music. It was to this beautiful music that you entered our lives, the whole moment was so surreal and beautiful. To be a part of a life is indeed an incredible honor, to actually be there to welcome you into the world was probably the most powerful experience of my life, something I will never forget. Your mother and I lied awake all night just staring at your perfect little face and puffy red lips in the incubator.

I know all parents believe their child is the most beautiful child ever, but honest to goodness even the nurses were coming from other areas to see you, you were that beautiful! You have been and will always be the love of my life; I did not know until I had a child the limitless amount of love I could have for you. I need only hear your voice and immediately all of my troubles begin to melt away. You too will one day know this love and then and only then will you begin to relate on another level with both your mother and myself just as I did with my parents. The overpowering love you feel when you have a child is an awesome feeling. You instantly know that nothing in this world has ever been so made of yourself than this wonderful little life you have before you. This Sophia, is the result of purest love.

Love, Papi

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