Showing posts tagged letters.
Ask me anything   What I Am Up To   About   

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.

Read more
— 2 years ago with 9 notes
#long reads  #letters  #dad  #dads  #grief  #writing 
Letter From Kuwait



Dearest Anita,                                                                                            June 27, 1975

It has been ten days since you left. The first few days seemed to drag out forever. I became very restless and depressed. Yet I really couldn’t get myself to get up to do anything. From morning to night seemed like such a long time. Somehow this state is beginning to change a little – although I don’t know whether to ascribe it to just getting used to the realities of life here or whether I am beginning to think about the fact that I’m not going to be here much longer. Anyway, I’ve stated making more use of the car, even if it is only to drive around in circles, sort of like going up and down main street on a Saturday night in a small town during the fifties and sixties. For a little variety I drove back out to the place north of town where we saw the shantytown and the dhow building yards. I was amazed and even impressed by how quickly things change around here – because in the two weeks since we drove up there with Sally the shantytown has virtually disappeared – literally – almost all of the shacks have been carted away and there are just big piles of junk lying around plus a few people who seem to be mainly scavenging. I went up there with the idea of taking some pictures of the dhow builders and it turned out to be fairly worthwhile since they were fairly friendly and didn’t really seem to mind. 

Read more
— 2 years ago with 4 notes
#dad  #kuwait  #letters  #love letters  #mom  #how to write about africa 
Father’s Day

Here’s a love letter my father wrote my mother while he was in London on business in ’71,

My dear and precious love!

Whenever I leave you I feel a powerful and wonderfully terrible series of emotions. They begin at the airport as the plane gathers speed, rumbling down the runway. Perhaps it is triggered by the city passing in the distance, but there is an emptiness inside me, a true aching of the heart. It is a longing and a dull sorrow for leaving behind that which I love. I fly off into a vague and fatalistic unknown (at this point I am never conscious of my true destination). It is an unreal eternity. It is as if I were in a spaceship destined for an unknown star, it must be a little like dying.

Read more
— 3 years ago with 2 notes
#Dad  #Letters  #Mom  #Father's Day  #Love Letters 
A Letter From Ireland

Letters from strangers are the nicest letters to get when someone dies.  It’s great to get cards and notes from people you know, of course, but a letter from an unknown acquaintance of the deceased has a certain air of sanctity.  It tells you that the person who died was a great person when you weren’t around, and lets you in on their other life—the one they led without you.

An old friend of mine recently passed away in a tragic, but not entirely unexpected, accident, and I wrote a very similar email to his mother (an email might be a little tacky, but she lives in South Africa and I didn’t want to delay it). “You don’t know me, but I knew your son, and though we only spent a few days together, he was someone very important to me…,” etc. Her son traveled the world and knew a lot of people, so my note was one of many she received from strangers. But she was so happy to get it, and said she took enormous comfort from all she learned about her son from people she would probably never meet.

This letter to my mother makes me happy, but it’s also very confusing. My father wasn’t a great person when I was around, but look who he was when he was on his own!  It’s sad I didn’t even get a glimpse of this George, but I get that a petulant teenager is probably less interesting than a boozy Irish businessman who isn’t failing freshman math. And I think we often save our best selves for strangers. I can be quiet or removed at home with my boyfriend, but when we meet up with friends or go out and meet new people, I come alive.  I didn’t even realize I did this until my boyfriend got on my case about it.  I took being quiet as a positive sign of being comfortable, but eventually that comfort can turn into distance, and I think our partners might like us to “turn it on” for them like we do for other people.

It’s really touching to read how much my father spoke about us. I don’t entirely believe it—you kind of have to say those things—but it’s nice to be reminded that my view of our relationship, and our family dynamics, wasn’t necessarily his.  It still seems impossible that he could have seen it any differently than I did, but if I keep thinking that way, this project would be pointless.

I love that my father was such a good drinking buddy, and also that he was “…a breath of fresh air…with his honesty and openness after the endless battering one takes in conducting business in today’s Kyiv.” I always thought my dad was a moral business person, but I’m also curious how moral you could really be at that time in Eastern Europe. He tried very hard to steer all of his endeavors in the right direction, and it didn’t always work.  That was why he left his original position with the National Bank of Ukraine and ended a few partnerships in West Africa. I spent almost a year in Africa after college, and when I asked if it might be possible to visit some of my father’s former colleagues in Nigeria or Cameroon my mother said, “Nope, they’re all in jail.”

— 3 years ago with 1 note
#Mom  #Dad  #Letters 
Mother’s Day

I just found this old fax last week.

It was extremely difficult to make international calls when my father was living in Ukraine in the 90’s, even if you lived at a “fancy” hotel like he did.  He communicated most frequently with middle-of-the-night faxes that woke us up with their hums and buzzes and loud beeping that told us the machine was out of paper again.

This is a very sweet note. I’m moved and surprised (and only slightly nauseated) by my father’s tenderness toward my mom.  I’m not surprised that he missed Mother’s Day, and though I have zero memory of that Mother’s Day, I can imagine my mother remarking on his misstep with a resigned sigh. Who knows how that day was spent.  I hope I came up with something decently appreciative.

I actually can’t remember a single Mother’s Day, though I’m going to keep digging around in my brain.  My mother should have never let me smoke pot in the house!

Read more
— 3 years ago with 5 notes
#Dad  #Faxes  #Letters  #Mom  #Mother's Day 
Yuri David


I’m going for honesty with this blog, and sometimes honesty conflicts with my (understandable?) desire to be at least a little bit classy. Whoa. I literally just identified the main conflict of my life. How can I be frank but not be rude or weird and still have friends and meet new people and have them want to be friends with me?

I bring up the issue of honesty because of the title of this blog, and because I wanted to title this post “My Dead Brother”—both are sincere, but not particularly reverent or subtle choices. I think My Dead Parents works, though I know it makes some people cringe. It sounds like a really awful sitcom, but it kinda works as a title too. Too bad I didn’t think of it sooner.

I’m okay with the title of the blog, but calling this post “My Dead Brother,” even though it will mostly be about my brother Yuri David, who died of pneumonia when he was just under a year old, seemed crass even for me. Yuri was always a taboo and confusing topic. His death devastated my parents, and as a child it was scary and isolating to witness their grief. The idea of a baby dying—any baby, but certainly one in my family—was overwhelming.

At my mother’s funeral, my mother’s best friend Sylvia, who received the letter below, said she thought my mother never got over my brother’s death.  That’s probably true, and I’m becoming increasingly certain that my brother’s death is what did my parent’s relationship in (and probably did them in as people).  I read this short letter for the first time this weekend, and it blew me away. It’s almost the key. It almost provides all the answers.

Read more
— 3 years ago
#Yuri  #Letters  #Mom  #Dad