One day, out of the blue, a friend mentioned that she’d just written a letter to Richard Armitage. Slightly later that day, another friend told me that she had a class assignment to write a fan letter to the author Sharon Creech. Both of these fan letters were about how the artists’ works impacted my pals in a deep and heart-felt way.
It was an interesting exercise to read the letter to Richard Armitage. The letter was soul-baring and honest, and discussed moments from my friend’s life that were especially resonant with Armitage’s work. The fan letter to Sharon Creech hasn’t been written yet, but while discussing it with me, my pal mentioned that her personality is probably modeled after Creech’s protagonists. “How do I tell her that and not feel weird?” she wondered.
In short, I think the universe is telling me to write a fan letter. I’ve rarely been moved to write fan letters, but I have written one before: it was to the author of the book Alba, to tell him that I named my child after the protagonist of his book. So, I think I’ll take a deep breath, hold my imaginary cajones, and dive right into this one… Maybe saying it to the internet will make it less difficult than saying it more privately.
I remember leaving you to catch my flight from Honolulu back to Los Angeles. You were in the not-quite-ICU ward of the hospital, and what was foremost on my mind was the worry that you’d be ignored by the nurses. It was early in the morning, but you were sitting up with a calm expression on your face.
“I’ll be okay,” you said. “This is my life now, and I’ve got to get used to it.”
I was struck pretty deeply by these words, and by the strength (mental, physical) of the person who said it. No matter what other qualms you might’ve had about what landed you in that place at that time, you were resolved to accept and work with what you were given. I think that this moment stuck with me because it was a point beyond panic or self-pity or anything negative. It turned your situation into something that simply required work, and thought, and effort, to abide with it.
You were probably putting on a bit of a front for your daughter, and I suspect this because I did it too when I had to tell Alba that I had cancer.
Still, your words and attitude stuck with me, and helped shape my own attitude toward ability and how to handle it. I began to see people in wheelchairs as the first in a pretty revolutionary wave of human cyborgs — humans who were using awesome technology to overcome the limitations of ridiculously weak flesh. But what’s important is that I stopped feeling fear or sorrow or anything negative about people who need additional technology to live. I just see them as human, creative humans, like you, me, everyone.
Anyway, this is my fan letter to you, Daddy. I have other heroes, obviously, and one is definitely Debbie, who is a strong part of helping to solve this complex puzzle of how to exist in a world when the usual functions of a body need to be enhanced and mitigated by science. But I will save those heroes for letters of their own. So thank you, for always being the person who has led me in my philosophical approach to life and adversity, and for striving to live with (rather than despite) this bunch of life lessons.
Love and respect,