Early this morning, four years ago, I lost my son. Like every suicide I had ever dealt with, his had more subterranean dynamics than even Charles Dickens or Eleanor Catton would want to drag their readers through.
After walking over to my neighborhood Starbucks for a quick espresso, a cousin of mine, who is barely two years older than Dan, texted me about her remembering playing with him. Those two were like puppies with one another. I love remembering Tannith, Jordan and Dan playing, quarreling and even occasionally fighting with one another.
Last evening, knowing what was already churning within me, Jordan sent a text. In it she said, simply and well, “I love you.” Her laying those words among many others intent on our getting together in the next day or so brought tears of joy to my eyes. Those tears weren’t cried over losing her brother, but over my having her.
Jordan hasn’t replaced Dan. Back then he had struggled with a natural conflict over fathers’ loving their daughters more than sons. Even today, I have to plod my way through memories of that conflict. A year or so before he took his life, Dan had called angry and upset with me. His true sorrow was over my seemingly loving his sister more than him. It took courage to let him try and bruise my ego, by confronting me with how I do more things for his sister, Jordan, than for him.
So, proving to himself that he was right wouldn’t have lessened his pain, it would have only justified his certainty of being worth less to me. By letting him carry on with his lambasting me without refuting nor returning salvos of self-defense his feelings quelled, a bit. After he settled, only a little, I told him, “I love the two of you differently but never less.”
Those words took him by surprise. He’d never suspected such a difference. It offered him a chance to both see that my choices may still be fault laden, but not in whether I loved him as I loved his sister. My hearing him calm down and cry to me about being wrong didn’t give me justification as a righteous dad. It ladened me with a deeper desire to make my motivations in choices between the two of them more obvious, especially to him.