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  • I walked down the canal with the note in my hand.

    I had been carrying it for over two years, if not in my hand, sadly, in my heart.
    It was written by my step-mother on my father’s stationary.

    From the desk of...

    Dad must have ordered a gross of it. He had been leaving notes “From the desk of” since at least the beginning of my life and now, until after death.

    The note was cold and devoid of any emotion for me. She signed it, “Love, Mom”
    but like never in person, there was none of it in her handwriting, either.

    She sent it after his funeral in an old cardboard shoebox stuffed with pictures of me.
    Just me.
    Alone on the beach.
    Alone in the yard.
    Alone at a table.
    Alone with ice cream.
    Not one of them was I above the age of seven.
    Not one of them I was being held.
    Not one of them, I was not alone.
    Just me.
    Just me, looking quizzical and a little lost into a camera lens...never past it.

    She said she was merely carrying out his wishes.

    She said she loved him.

    She wrote words on paper.

    I thought perhaps it was my own translation...perhaps I was reading it wrong. Maybe I had always read her wrong. I have been accused of being overly sensitive more than once. But when I showed it to a few dear friends, their response was quite quick and gutteral...

    “What a bitch.”

    I was relieved and sad at the same time.

    It wasn't me.

    I didn’t know what I was waiting for. The perfect time...the perfect tide.

    That day finally came.

    I walked down the canal with the note in my hand.

    I looked around. I thought it best to be alone.

    I ripped it in half. I ripped it in quarters. I ripped it again and again and again into shreds.

    I tossed it over the bank and watched the quickly moving tide carry it away. I looked down and some of the pieces had gotten stuck in the tangled brush. I ignored it at first, letting the pieces fall where they may and ran ahead to watch the water carry away any remaining resentments and pain from the past.

    I said goodbye again to my father and to the mother that never was.

    I started back to the main road, but when I glanced those shards remaining, I knew they too, had to go down stream.

    I found a fallen branch long enough for the job and started poking and prodding, freeing the last bits.

    A woman approached and asked if I had dropped something.

    I told her my whole story in a paragraph or less.

    She stood silently and watched me and as I backed up a step, she took the switch from my hand.

    “Wait. You missed a piece.”

    She loosened the last scrap and sent it down stream.

    We watched it go

    ...together.

    I did not shed a single wet tear.

    I started to head back to the road where I left my friend waiting.

    The older woman called out.

    “Happy fiftieth!”

    I yelled back.

    “Thank you!”

    I meant it, happily, and from my whole heart.
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    image of a stranger from a thrift store shoe box
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