• Dear Mom

    Dear Mom,

    I am sorry I haven’t written sooner, or more often.

    I hope you are well.

    I don’t think you know that Peggy finally told me about the conversation you and she had about my uncertain paternity.
    It was quite a while ago. I wish you had talked to me about it, though. Apparently, you did inconclusive blood tests back in 1955, and I have met the (nameless) guy a few times.

    Father & Mom

    Whenever you and your husband argued, and he apparently blurted out things about me maybe being a bastard, I either didn’t hear it, or it didn’t make sense to me. Until Peggy talked to me, I had no idea, no inkling.

    I cried briefly, because it all made sense, albeit tragically so. Your husband, and my legal father, blamed me for something that was not my fault. Mixed in with the grief, though, was relief — it had never been about me being worthless, never being good enough.

    It must have been miserable for you both — me being there was a constant reminder of the problems early in your marriage… broken promises, broken dreams, broken hearts.

    And I am not judging you, Mom — not at all.

    First of all, I don’t even know if you broke your vows first. Secondly, living in heavily-Roman Catholic upstate New York, after several years of marriage with no kids, accompanied by the almost-certain family pressures, and your own self-doubts, I understand completely.

    You once said you turned me into a wreck. I don’t think so. It was my father and, frankly, I inherited some of your brother’s craziness. I don’t know with what he was diagnosed, but I know that I am fully diagnosed now, and am doing well.

    I hope I have made you proud, at least in the time after I was a sophomore, when I was started coming into my own. I have accomplished a lot in my life, and I am working diligently on the self-appreciation thereof.

    The last five years have been brutal, and all the things I thought I knew about life, I have to learn again, as Henley sings so profoundly. I thought I was becoming a classic retired “now useless” alcoholic, but that’s not the case. I have several other things wrong.

    After 30 years in the fire department, I rarely have nightmares or flashbacks. Yet, after my PTSD assessment, the counselor looked at my results and said, “Oh, my goodness.” I didn’t even know there was such a thing as childhood PTSD, let alone ever suspect that I have a severe case of it.

    When the counselor decided that there was even something else wrong with me, and sent me off to the psychiatrist, again, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Bi-Polar 2, or even suspect that I had anything wrong with me like it.

    Now, I am, I think, properly medicated, and there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

    PTSD. Alcoholism. BP-Polar 2. Three bonafide disabilities. I sure wish I wasn’t such an over-achiever in this “Jeopardy” category, Alex, but I am.

    I will be leaving Washington soon, and heading back to California, although the specifics are still up in the air.

    Heather is doing great, the two girls are fine, but Zack is still struggling. You have another great-granddaughter, Maggie, who just turned 1, and I have not gotten to meet her yet. Matt is her father and he’s doing well, as are my other three kids.

    I don’t really know how Ellen, Bill and Marty are doing, I don’t get to talk to them very much — but I haven’t heard any bad news, either!

    Oh. I almost forgot — literally.

    I sent my DNA results off to Ancestry.com, and they came back. The “good” news is that my father had a reason to be a bastard, and to treat me like one, too. The bad news is that he did so, quite adequately.

    I immediately recognized the name “McCrobie,” and knew that I had met Mike several times, although he has now passed. The Community Center in Oswego is named after him for all his years of city service, and Uncle Bob says he was a stand-up guy. Based on his own marriage date, I also know he was single when you hooked up.

    So, I knew my father too well, but my dad hardly at all.

    I first thought the “MMcCrobie” Ancestry nickname was him, but it turns out it was his grandson, Matt — and my half-nephew.

    I have at least two half-siblings, both males — Jeff and Mike. But I am sure you already knew about them.

    In the “you can’t make this stuff up” coincidence category, Mike is an avid writer, has been a sports coach for his entire life, is now retired, and regularly writes to and for the Palladium Times in Oswego.

    Jeff, on the other hand, just retired after a long career with the Oswego Fire Department, retiring as Chief of Department — and prematurely forced out by the mayor.

    I also got an email recently from Carol, and I am going to be single again. Yes, email. I don’t think you use email, but if you have an email address, could you let me know, please?

    I am a little concerned about being single for the rest of my life, even though my friends tell me otherwise. Either way, this kind of blip on the screen of life is what I have been training for the last five years. I wish my version of Prince Charming came in better wrapping paper, but I can’t change that — or, in the case of some minor plastic surgery tweaks, I am unwilling to do so, lest I end up looking like Burt Reynolds or Kenny Rogers!

    Stay well, Mom*. I don’t know when I’ll get to see you. As I said, I’m heading back to California soon, and I will let you know how that goes.

    Love always,


    * Mom died January 29, 1996.

      • John Piccolo-Wignall

      • March 21, 2017 at 6:26 am
      • Reply

      Well written Tom. Hopefully this will assist you with closure. I ,too, was raised by a man who was not my biological father. I didn’t find out until I was 40. It put my life into perspective. Please stop by to visit me, when you get back home. As firefighters, we are brothers to the end.
      Take care, John

      • Judy Case

      • April 30, 2017 at 9:55 am
      • Reply

      Thank you Tom for that raw open letter to your mother. I too have unresolved issues about growing up without knowing my biodad. I don’t know that I have the courage to pen her a letter.

      * mom died 9-27-2013

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