New York City
January 2, 2000

Dear Children,

I thought of you both today with a quieter mind.

In the dead of Winter, New York is clear and warm. People have taken their coats off, tied them around their waist; families walk about, letting the children run ahead. Lovers, usually seeking protection inside, lean against doorways and kiss.

Even I sit still - on a bench just outside Central Park - and marvel at the day.

Everyone seems to be sharing an unspoken question with the strangers around them, a question no one wants answered: - What have we done to deserve this? No one wants it answered, because we haven't done anything special to deserve it. We have just accepted this day, nothing more.

And that simple, yet powerful, realization quiets my mind.

I have spent twelve months estranged from you both.

When we are able to see one another, we love each other with the intensity of a wild fire that sparks, spreads and consumes a forest in one night. At hours end, we part full of questions, with one of them being intrinsically difficult to answer: - Why we are saying good-bye again?

I've never been able to answer that for you...

This last time, visiting at Christmas, I noticed your voices are growing round and knowing. I can hear them now in my mind. They are so clear, and I can see your faces glow before me, just under my eyes as I close them. You are both so beautiful.

In our lives together, as I raised you, both of you, I have always marveled at your spying eyes. You both watch Mama and I with an honesty and curiosity that is revealing: - You are forming a template, you are building a model for your own behavior.

God, I miss being witnessed.

Last night was the first night of a new century. Let me tell you what I did - as if you were watching from the corner. I spent the New Year in a country house in Connecticut. I left the city with friends, avoiding the crushing spectacle of Times Square to embrace something closer to my own childhood in Wisconsin.

A quiet renewal.

We arrived on the Eve, built a fire in the morning, and kept it going all day to ward off the freezing forest. At midnight, we opened champagne and kissed each other. I called you both at home, and even though it was earlier for you, found myself leaving another message on Mama's machine.

I told you that I loved you, and that a century was behind us. I left my number again, and told you to call at any moment. I hoped that you were safe and I left you with what has become your squealing welcome, whenever I appear again: - Daddy always comes back!

Then I said good-bye. I finished my thin glass of wine, and put my heavy coat on.

I left through the back door, and ventured into the black forest. After the light of the house died away, I walked even slower - ice covered the hard ground, and my eyes hadn't yet adapted to the pitch. Clouds roiled above the trees, leaving me without stars; and the moon, so bright over Christmas, was resting elsewhere now.

I found a grove finally, a circle of bare trees; and I lit a cigarette.

As a child, my darlings, I used to pray to the stars. As a necessity, as a place to focus so much curiosity. Tonight, I was left with my own freezing breath, rising toward nothing. I asked a blessing for my friends. I spoke aloud, and took my time. I listed the company of support I've been blessed with this past year - people who I've known for years, and who rallied unconditionally to my side; regardless of the fearsome accusations of abuse trumpeted by your mother. Or, perhaps, because of them.

Most of them have seen you rest in my arms, and they mourn the politics your mother has plied at the end of the century. A century that still considers a father's love unconventional.

I remembered these friends aloud, speaking slowly, and conjuring them in my mind's eye; my face lifted toward the dark sky; and they each made me pause, and it felt so good to think of them. My voice swallowed up by the expansive black air.

Then, I stood for a time - and after a bit, sought the power to forgive.

Remember that I have had conversations with the sky for a long time, I even used to pray with either of you in my arms, sometimes both, in our yard atop Laurel Canyon. I am used to bartering with God in this way.

I thought of your mother, having the privilege of sleeping only feet from you, and I considered how precious that reward is, and how she yearned to rewrite her short history with you, and how she yearned to begin again - apart from her past negligence; and I realized that she was fighting, however her means, to love her children.

And I stood against the sky, and forgave her for the pain she has caused us. Then, I said it aloud, "I forgive her for the pain she causes us," and you both hid behind the trees, listening. And I said it again, with my face still toward the sky, knowing it'll be all right because "Daddy always comes back."

As I spoke, with you both hidden, holding each other somewhere close to me, the stars appeared above, like a veil being lifted, and we were answered as the clouds parted too quickly for nature, and my shadow pooled beneath me. This sudden light, the stars consuming the forest in one night.

This is our love, even here, even so far away, your spirits watching me in the woods - and with our love, the sky answered the inexplicable: Here is your reason; forgiveness is all. You and I, the three of us, walked out of the woods changed.

Happy New Year, my Angels.

I miss you terribly.

I love you.


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