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The Reply

So I heard back from “my father’s mistress” and…well, you’ll see. She seems very cool and thoughtful and open-minded. The email I sent her had no subject (because what the hell could I say?) but the subject of her reply was “Peoples’ lives and our narratives about them.” I was like, aaaaaaand I love you.

I’m still processing this, both because there’s a lot to process and I’m confused, and because I’m in Asia now and so jet-lagged I’m about two seconds away from passing out.

I welcome your initiative to contact me. It’s not a problem at all. I would like to have a conversation with you about your dad, who was a good friend and mentor.

When your dad died in the car accident in Ukraine I was 24 years old, just out of graduate school.

I met your dad at an art gallery. It turns out we both loved the visual arts and thus started a friendship that centered around exploring the turbulent cultural life that was unfolding in early post-communist Ukraine. He was an enthusiastic buyer contemporary art and was well connected. I was thrilled to come along and absorb the atmosphere. I was flattered that he would want to take me along.

Your dad and I were never physically involved. I happened to be living in a room in his spacious apartment at the time because the university housing was closed in the summer months. I was renovating an apartment and the work was taking longer than anticipated. So I think I must have lived at George’s place for some two months while my place was under wraps. My stay coincided with your sister’s visit. I don’t know what your sister thought was going on, or what George told her, but I can assure you that your dad and I were not  involved in any way other than an easy friendship.

I am gay. When I was still living in the housing provided by the university, I had an extended visit from my then girlfriend. George knew that from the early days of our friendship. We all actually spent some time together painting Easter eggs and wandering through art galleries. He must have told your sister this, because after the car accident there were a lot of rumors in the expatriate community in Kiev and my sexual orientation was part of the gossip.

After the car accident I was involved in packing up your dad’s things. Getting his art collection back to the US was quite complicated. I sometimes wonder what happened to it. [“Editor’s” note: That art went straight into storage and stayed there. I feel bad saying it, but the entire collection is..not great. My mom and I literally grimaced and groaned as we unpacked each piece. My dad had good taste, so I’m not sure what was wrong. I think he just wanted to support Ukrainian artists, and was able to do it because art was so cheap at the time.]

I met your mom in Boston when I went to the US for a meeting. We had a drink at a bar, and I told her that I had never had a relationship with George.

I know that your dad was really proud of you and your sister. He showed me photos and was always excited when he got news from you. I know that he was worried about making enough money to pay for college tuition.

Please feel free to ask me anything you like and I hope I can give you answers that are meaningful and worthy of they great guy your dad was.

Like I said, a lot to process.

— 1 year ago with 9 notes
#long reads  #letters  #dad  #dads  #grief  #writing 
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