“Letters from Mom”

Mom wrote me hundreds of letters and would often send me greeting cards with snipped comics or articles from newspapers or magazines she thought I'd enjoy.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed in concert at the O’Connell Center on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida on the night of Saturday, October 26th, 1991. I spent several hours before the concert playing a drinking / card game called “Asshole” in the dorm room of a friend in East Hall and was so drunk by the time the show started that I threw up in the bathroom and then passed out in my seat; I effectively missed the entire concert. I woke around two in the morning in the upper decks of the empty arena and stumbled back to the dorm. I remember all this quite clearly.

What I didn’t remember – until reading this letter – was that my mother, grandmother, and little sister came to visit me on Sunday morning. I must have been disgustingly hungover and ruined the day, and mom wrote me this letter not too happy about it.

Dear David,

It has always been my intention to be loving and supportive of your collegiate endeavors, to encourage and assist, etc. Somewhere early on, it appears, things have gone awry. That college stress pamphlet said to speak openly and honestly about our feelings and try to work things out, but, no matter what I say, it seems I get little or no response from you. Maybe you could consider taking some time to sit under a tree and give a little thought to at least some of what I say and letting me know how you feel about it – in something more honest and detailed than the basic “it’s none of your business because I’m an adult.” I know there are some areas that are extremely sensitive because we are poles apart, but does that mean we just don’t deal with them, just leave them there in the darkness forever between us?

For example, aren’t there middle grounds? I’ve expressed to you that an occasional drink, would seem reasonable and that I wouldn’t expect you never to drink. I would hope that you wouldn’t or that the term “seldom” would be operative, but you only discuss drinking in front of me when you’re bragging to someone else, as if you are trying to communicate in a negative way. It’s funny, because no matter what you or I do or whatever happens, I will always love you more than life, yet you, who claim to know that, seem to be afraid, especially when I show emotion.

What happened last weekend was not fair to Nana or me or Jenny. If our coming up there was going to interfere with your partying, you should have told us our visit would be inconvenient. If you wanted to see us, then we deserved you asleep at a reasonable hour, up and ready to go when we got there. It wasn’t fair or loving or mature of you to party until 7:00 A.M. – how can even you not see that? And how can you expect me to just say, “Oh, okay. No problem.”? I’m the one responsible for my mother, my daughter, and, yes, even you. I’m supposed to always be strong. Well, here’s a surprise for you, my son, sometimes I express my strength, I live my strength, through tears and weakness and needing and hurting and knowing that those feelings are OKAY and even sometimes GOOD.

You said last night that you drank before the concert because it’s “fun”. What’s fun about it? Is it expected? A peer thing? What happened to Mr. Individuality-I-don’t-have-to-prove-anything? Does the booze (for lack of a more specific word) offer an incredible treat for the pallet (okay, so I can’t spell everything)? Bullshit! Or is there no other way to have fun that doesn’t offer an element of defiance? Analyze it, my son. Exactly what is the fun of it? Then let me throw in one more observation; you want to be an adult, then recognize that the goals and values of true maturity are not fun centered. And wasn’t the concert going to be enough fun for you for one night? Aren’t your friends and Tom Petty and the O’Connell Center and U of F and the 20M screaming fans right next door to your dorm and a beautiful Florida night enough fun for you?

It’s Thursday morning now. Funny, I’ll probably send this, but I’m debating – I’m not sure what to say to you. And I don’t remember going through any of this with my parents, so I have nothing to relate to.

I could just about X?”?!X your dad for letting you into the “drinking is fun” kind of mentality. And the smoking. And, last but far from least, for every minute of pain that he’s caused you and Jenny all these years. (And, consequently, for the pain I may have caused you as a result of the pain he caused me.) It’s all been so unfair, and, despite the article, he got off the easiest, and you and Jenny got the most hurt. And, no matter how hard I tried — and God I tried — I couldn’t take it away.

I suppose you might take this as sarcastic. None of it is meant to be. When you’re being David, you will know that. When you get defensive, you don’t. It’s fairly simple to see, not to simple to live. If you could only really relax and get through all this without doing permanent damage to yourself (physical, emotional, or spiritual).

I guess all I can really ask is what I’ve always told you – try to be open to good. And, I guess, just hang in there. I love you so much, David.