It has become de rigueur for writers to write essays about what their parents have done to them–those vivid, haunting moments when everything changed and a young life was damaged forever. Few people, though, tell the opposing stories, the unforgivable things that we’ve done to our parents: mom’s wedding ring dropped in the toilet and flushed; dad’s convertible wrapped around a traffic light; and worse, the disowning, that time-honored tradition of deciding in our twenties that our parents are too backassward to deserve our respect.

We make amends. We grow out of our snobbery. But what I did to my father on December 28th, 1975 was more unforgivable than any of the usual offenses.


Dearest Francine,

Hello and Happy New Year! First, I must apologize for placing this letter on your conveyor belt and then disappearing into the soup and rice aisle. I hope these words have successfully made their three-foot journey into your delicate fingers, and I hope that you have the time to read this letter in its entirety before scanning another item for another customer. I purposefully picked a slow time at the store for this. There are so many things I’ve wanted to say to you over the past ten months I’ve been shopping at this grocery store, and I hope you can soon understand why I am approaching you in the form of a letter.