“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.

Mom wrote me this letter during the Spring semester of my sophomore year of college. At the time I was nineteen and I guess she saw some sort of Hallmark or Lifetime movie and was traumatized that I was going to contract HIV because of all the drug-fueled, wild, college orgies I was attending. (Note: I was not attending any such parties.)

I really wish I’d had more time as a parent myself before she died. It is impossible to even remotely relate to your parents until you have your own kids.

April 5, 1992

I know you’re one of the good guys! I know it but good guys get hurt, and I couldn’t stand it if it was you. (“Life Goes On” was about a seventeen-year-old who got drunk at a party, had sex and got aids.)

When you backed up your car and honked I thought I would die of joy. I know how much you love me — I really do. Probably as much as I love you. That’s why I followed you.

A few years ago, I would have been the Donna Reed kind of mother who would just smile and say, “we’ll get through these next couple of years.” But things have changed. It’s not just a couple of drinks and joyriding in a tank. There’s so much more and so much worse out there for you to face if you aren’t living smart. And I know it’s not easy to live smart when you’re 18, especially not for a guy. Yet now it’s so much more important!

I don’t know how you feel about the things you’ve had to face; divorce, being pulled in two, no money, questions about the meaning of life before most kids could pronounce the words. But, I had my own things to face and I know you’re at least as good as me inside. I know you do most the “things” you do because way down deep inside you don’t think you deserve all the good things you have and that no one understands how much you hurt and how scared and angry you really are.

I’m sorry I pick on your friends. Some of them are in pretty bad shape. Not everyone in the world is hurting as bad as they are. You think I’m being nasty. God, if you could only understand the frustration and the fear a parent faces trying to let a child know they’re there for them, watching them hurt (and not even understand their own hurt), trying to guide. It’s like you’re in a raging river and I’m throwing you a rope and you’re too afraid to grab it so you toss it back, and I don’t know what else to do.

Maybe that’s melodramatic. It would have been for Donna Reed. It’s not now – not with aids, and lung cancer and drugs and violent death all around.

I wish I could have given you faith, something to stand on. I tried, but I know I failed you up to now. Yet I still hope for you, that the Hound of Heaven won’t let you go. Kant said you can never prove the existence of God. He also said you can never prove the opposite either and therein lie the choices people must make about how to live their lives.

I love you, David. All I’m asking is that you take care of yourself, not casually or unthinkingly, but in a deliberate, positive way, knowing you have a lot of living to do, a lot of good to do, a lot to give. The next time you want to take a chance on sex, think about that little boy you want to be a great father to, think about that wife you want to love and that book you want to write. Would all that joy be worth giving up?

Be careful. Find out if you can and then make your decision about all the things that are really important in life.

You are so much joy to me!!! I want you to have that joy yourself.

I wish I had the words. If nothing else, to make you understand the risks you take in sex. And, in understanding, to choose life. From now on.

The cut-out is because I thought you’d get a kick out of it. And because I’m not the only one …

And when I tell you all these things and plead with you, it’s not because I don’t trust you. It’s just that this generation does not have room for many mistakes.

I love you!!!!!