A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from Daphne’s mother. I was almost too scared to open it. Inside was a handwritten note. Short, but certainly much more cordial than her last curt response to me - she simply and politely said there were some things she would like to discuss with me if I would be so kind as to call her, then listed her number. So kind? This woman who was so inhuman to her daughter and so rude to me was asking for my kindness?
It took me two days to summon the courage to call her. Two days and two sleepless nights wondering what this woman wanted from me and wondering if I would be able to get past my hurt feelings and pride to even talk to her. My hands were shaking and my voice trembling when I finally called.
She was polite but reserved and requested if we might be able to meet in person. Why? I asked. Again she said that there were things we should discuss and she had something she thought was mine. Something? They stole everything I owned. Every personal memento, every piece of clothing, every thing Daphne and I owned together. I could feel my anger rising.
I asked if Daphne’s father would also be there. She told me that he had passed away last fall. Last fall? My mind started to calculate, that would have been right around the time I sent that first letter to them asking for forgiveness. Yet Daph and her father are not buried together. As my brain was going through the endless things that could mean, I heard my voice saying, “I am so sorry for your loss and yes of course I will meet with you.” What?
I had to be in NYC and so we made arrangements to meet at a restaurant there. I knew her as soon as she walked in - I was looking right into Daphne’s eyes. She was cordial in her introduction. I was stammering. What the hell did this woman want from me?
She began to talk but I really didn’t hear a word. What kind of a mother disowns her own and only child? I couldn’t get past my disdain. I couldn’t get past her eyes. Something about mistakes. Something about the pain. Was she looking to me for forgiveness? Something about her being sorry it took her so long to do this. Do what?
And then she asked me a few questions. Mostly about the work Daphne was doing, something about a friend of hers. Nothing about our relationship. And then about how Daph felt about their separation. Separation? You threw her out of her home when she was 17. How do you think she felt? I think I may have been cruel in my responses. Worse, I think I wanted to be.
And then she reached into her bag and handed me a notebook. A simple, spiral notebook. What is it? I asked. "A diary," she said. "It was obviously written to you." Holy fuck. I opened it and flipped through the pages looking at her handwritten words, tears welling up and quickly spilling over. And then without further words, she said thank you, stood up and walked out, leaving me sitting there with this little piece of Daph.
I read the first entry. It was a note asking me to get in touch with her academic advisor and give him her research notes. Very hopeful. Very much looking toward the future.
I read the rest of it when I got home and could read it privately. The book is not filled. Only 15 pages. Eight weeks from the time she left the hospital until the end. A journal, filled with so much love, yet documenting an unmistakable descent into depression.
I now have many of the answers to questions that have haunted me for so long. Some answers that have lifted a measure of the debilitating weight of guilt. (Yes, she knew I tried to see her) But also some very painful realities. So hard to read how much pain she was in and know she was all alone in it. Unbearable for me to think about really.
I’m sure it will take me a very long time to digest. But I can forever hold in my hand a very real piece of her. The joy and the pain. It is both eerie and comforting at the same time. I am bursting with too many feelings.