January 13, 2014

An Open Letter To My Dad. ~ Anna Jorgensen

I forgive you; I apologize to you; I thank you.

Hi Dad, or should I call you Henry? It’s been so long I’m not sure how to address you anymore.

I was looking at old photos the other day and thought of you. I wonder if you’ll get this, if any of it will register. Will it find you, wherever you are?

I wanted to let you know that I forgive you. In fact, I forgave you a long time ago. I don’t know why I waited so long to tell you. Maybe I thought that somehow through the cosmos you’d simply know.

Actually, the reality is I probably didn’t think about it at all.

Because, really, I don’t remember the exact moment when it happened, the forgiveness.

Maybe it dissipated over time. I thought it happened all at once back when I’d taken that four day bucket-of-tears counselling course when I was in my mid twenties, gosh, almost twenty years ago. I was a real mess then, not liking myself (or life) much.

I learned, in that course, that all those abandonment-related, self-sabotaging behaviors—drinking too much, spending too much, working too much, hating myself too much—were not your fault.

No one was at fault.

I’d forgiven a lot of stuff back then even though there were still a lot of years of continued dysfunctional behavior. Not that it matters now.

Now, when I think of the past, especially my childhood, I focus on the good parts. I don’t recall much from the logging camp. I guess I was too young. But every now and then I bring out the photo albums and pan through memories frozen in time. Most of the early memories are visceral, tactile flutterings in my heart.

I’d felt safe, secure, and adored then. Thank you for that.

There’s a photo of us in the commissary. You’d obviously finished a long day: you’re sitting in your recliner in filthy work clothes and suspenders (they wear them for fashion nowadays, can you believe it?) You’re eyes are closed and you’re slumped back, but you look peaceful.

I’m sitting on the arm of the chair in a white outfit, probably about five years old—I’m sure Mom must have told me not to sit on you so I wouldn’t get dirty. Of course, I wouldn’t have cared.

Remember when we moved out of camp to the ‘city’?

It’s more than doubled in size now! Close to 60,000 residents. But the winters are a lot milder. Remember, we used to get a pile of snow and 6th Street would get blocked off and we’d go flying down the snow on a big, old logging truck inner tube you’d brought home from camp?

It was terrifying, and exhilarating! My six year old squealing self thought it was the longest, steepest street in the country! But I always trusted you’d keep me safe. When I drive by it now, I see that it’s actually a much shorter little road. It makes me wonder if you were as big and strong and booming as I remember you. Mom says you were.

She still misses you.

She’s good. Little aches and pains (arthritis) but overall, she manages. Maybe you know she eventually remarried, but it didn’t work out. Not just because he wasn’t you. She’s been on her own for quite awhile now, long enough to be alright with it. She’s mellowed a lot with the years. So have I. But then again, you didn’t know me during those years.

I also want to apologize.

There were times when I was embarrassed of you: your size or your unfiltered but good-natured bellowing and cussing. I guess a lot of kids go through that phase of wanting to distance themselves from their parents, whatever the reason. But you left in the midst of it and I guess I felt guilty, like somehow it was my fault, as though I was getting punished for my shame of you.

Your brash brazenness was always delivered with innocent intent and a purely loving heart, even if it was audible three towns over. Ironically, I’m just like you. Mom says I have no ‘delicacy in my delivery’. My close friends have said the same. I did filter myself publicly for a long time, but now I’ve come to believe that honesty, integrity and kindness trump political politeness. So I’m also thanking you.

I’m grateful that I had the time with you that I did. You were a good man and a great father. I’d rather have the twelve years I did with you than a lifetime with any other dad.

I love you and I miss you,


Henry E. Jorgensen December 31, 1929-April 30, 1983

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Assistant Editor: Brenna Fischer / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Courtesy of the Author.

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