"Losing you is going to be really hard, but you need to stop suffering." Jessica wrote. "And don't feel bad that you're going to be leaving us, OK? I love you so much, Daddy. I will miss you so much. You will always live on in spirit. Goodbye, Daddy.
Your daughter forever with love, Jessica."
And she drew five stick figures, with a caption, "We will always be a happy family."

He started to cry. "Oh Val, what am I going to do?"

But a half-minute later, it was as if, mercifully, he was somewhere well beyond the gravity of it all. He stopped crying and asked quizzically, "Val, where are we?"

Valerie Reitman
Los Angeles Times
June 14, 2004

"...then why did you do that?" he asked, as if I could answer it in a sentence.

"It's complicated," I replied. I swiped at an imaginary fly in the air to distract myself from gravity.


He's a doctor. He sees it all the time.

"Nothing's ever complicated, Joe," he said to me. "It's just hard."

So I wonder Dad and Grandma, and Nana, and Johnny, and Grandpa, and the one I never met, and Barnes and Dave and Mike and Sue and Rick and Tim and Donna and all of you whose eyes I looked into and drank and ate and laughed and had time together alone and it was just us talking and will never be again, I want to know--but I don't.

What's it like?

Michelle graduated High School, Dad. Did you see it? I was thinking, standing there, with my camera so proud, watching her pass me without trying to see me too hard the way I did, what are these the cycles life takes? What good comes from it? Why do we want things and why are we so angry when they don't come?

I was her, then. I was me watching you, and you were me watching your father, and he his. How far does it go? What is this strange wheel, Dad? Do you know now? Have the answers come and you're taking a break?

Was it what it should have been? Is there a should have been?

I remember when you looked up at the ceiling in that bedroom and you were talking to people I couldn't see.

"It's right up there," you said, not one thing sad in you, like I could see it too and I would be happy I did.

The guilt that lives inside me is that I have spent so much time dwelling on the dying part of life that I have missed living at all. That I have never cast off the existentialism I embraced as a passionate young man with an incomplete history. That I allowed myself to become a victim. That I have not loved those around me with the full intensity of my being. That I have not been what I should have. That the answers I sought from the perpetual zero of space blinded me to the fact that everything was ridiculously simple. There was nothing at all complicated about this life.

Not one thing.

Why didn't you tell me?

Maybe you did.

I don't want to miss it.

One good thing about me is I play piano. I'm not super good, but I'm ok. If you wanted me to play you a song I could. Usually, I play them for myself, and my piano playing makes me happy. It's music I want to hear, a lot of the time.

If I put my mind to it, I can write a poem.

I can fix lots of different types of electronic things.

If things get rotten and you're feeling bad, it could be good to have me around.

I forget a lot of things, but I don't usually forget my friends.

One good thing about me, if you needed someone to tell a joke every now and then, I could do it.

I get very upset with myself, but I try to keep that to a minimum.

I still haven't figured out most of life, but I'm reasonably happy asking the questions.

I do think about trying to be the kind of person I would like to have around.

I think that's a good thing.

I had to write my girl a card for her graduation, and I was thinking that with everything I write, I should make it something good. Something she would remember.

So I had this red piece of paper in my briefcase for weeks, because I knew I had to write something good, but I couldn't. There was work and this trust I have to be the executor for. And people are generally mad at me because, it seems most of the time, they have to be mad at someone and I don't fight back as much as other people.

What was true to me, then, was that if I was going to write something important for her, that she would remember and maybe keep around in her heart so she'd say when she was thirty, "Dad, remember what you said to me?" that I'd have to think it was something coming from a guy who was ok being who he was.

I am so trying that.