Special Message to my darling nieces whose parents have forbidden me from seeing them.
Dear Nieces (M, R & T),
I just want you to know that I love you all, and that the reason Uncle Laramie has not come to visit is that your parents don't want me to. I have pleaded and reasoned and argued with them, and nothing helps. I want to see you very much, and I care for you very much. It pains me to know that you might think that there was something unlovable about you so that I wouldn't want to visit. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The three of you are perfect, and I hope that you continue to grow up to be beautiful, brilliant, creative, talented women. I'm sad that I won't be able to watch your lives any more, and cheer and support and give you all the love you deserve.
Your parents have told you that I've made some bad choices and some mistakes. Don't believe it. I am not ashamed of my life or my choices. I'm so not ashamed that I'll tell you about it here, on my website, where the entire world is free to read it.
Last night was Winter Solstice - a celebration of the passing of the longest night of the year, and a time when Pagan and many other world cultures have gatherings to reflect upon the past year, and cast out things for the new year. At Winter Soltice this year, I have cast out any anger at your parents, and I have forgiven them. I have forgiven them for the things they have done, but I feel that I should still tell you about these things.
I must tell you that you may be facing an uphill battle with parents that are so controlling. Hopefully you will be safe, and some day you will go off to college, and discover that there is a world out there, that there are opinions and ideas and options. That may be a wonderful time for you, since your parents protect you from contact with anyone who is not in the exact model of their sense of morality. You will see that in the real world, people sometimes don't get married, sometimes get divorced, sometimes get re-married, sometimes love someone of the same sex, sometimes have children die, sometimes have Bar Mitzvahs, sometimes disagree with the President, and yet they continue to live their lives. These have all been things that your parents have demanded that you not be exposed to. Your mother didn't want me to tell you that my daughter Skye had been born, since she was born out of wedlock. And when she died soon after of SIDS (a tragic, sudden death without known cause which only happens to babies less than four months old ), she didn't want me to tell you, either. She didn't want you to know that you were all welcome to come to your cousin's Bar Mitzvah. She forbid me from singing any songs that talked about politics, or from talking about politics. Politics is how people agree on how to run their communities and the world, and your Nona raised your mother and your uncles to delight in politics and be active members of the community. She forbid me from singing for you my song "One for the Road" which, through humor, discusses the realities and dangers of drinking. Even though it would be appropriate for kids of your age to be hearing a healthy discussion of why drinking and driving is a really bad idea. It might protect you from getting into a car with a driver who had been drinking. But your parents choose to protect you with a veil of ignorance. I pray that it works.
Your mother has said some very insensitive things to me, and to our brother, and, most sadly, to our mother (your grandmother/Nona), who has limited time left with us on this planet. To deprive you of even one day when she could be teaching you piano, or making music with you, feels wrong to me. Nona is one of the world's great pianists, and is also a wonderful, caring, loving grandmother. I pray that your mother's insensitivity and hard-hearted, judgemental barbs don't fall upon your blameless ears. I pray that your parents don't ever treat you the way they have treated me. If they ever do, know that there are other people out in the world who are more forgiving, more peaceful, more loving, and more kind -- people who will be your roommates, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, mates, business partners, artistic collaborators, classmates ... there is a lot more living you have to do, and you will survive controlling parents.
Your parents have told you that I've made some bad choices and some mistakes. As I said, don't believe it. I am not ashamed of my life or my choices. Let me tell you about some of it.
I had a child with someone I was not married to. I have been married twice before, and didn't want to get married again. Our darling daughter, Skye, died suddenly, fifteen days after she was born, and we don't know why. This (SIDS) happens to about 4000 babies in the U.S. each year. Your mother asked me that I not tell you about this. I told your mother that I would not lie to you. So when you asked me about it when we were all together with your mother, I told you what happened. And I told you not to be afraid, that this kind of thing does not happen to children your age. You have nothing to fear -- it only happens to babies less than about four months old. Your mother once told me that my not being married was partly to blame for my daughter's death. This is as cruel a statement as it is untrue. It is statements like this that make me write this very awkward open letter to you. The danger that this letter might upset you is much less than the danger you face with parents who might make statements like this to you. Hopefully, knowing a bit of the truth will help protect you.
Now I am living with my girlfriend, whom you know. Because she has children who are not mine, we are not in the model your father has chosen: "mother and father raising the biological offspring." It doesn't matter to your parents that I'm kind and fun to my girlfriend's kids and that I love them, or that she is a fantastic mom, or that they are wonderful boys you'd love to play with. We're outside the rules, so you, my nieces, lose.
I also don't have any regrets about the choices I have made since then. I have done everything out of love and respect for life. I have helped new beginnings. I have given comfort. I have looked deep inside myself, and I have shared my innermost feelings with people through art and music. Your mother and father believe I am living an evil, sinful, uncaring life because I don't live exactly as they do. No one is harmed by how I live my life. Everyone involved in my life knows they have my love and respect. I had extensive conversations with your father about how I could get on his good graces in order that I might see you again. His demands were so unreasonable, that I could not change my life to his liking. But I promised to respect his decisions about his family (you). Then he went off and said a number of things about my mother (your Nona) and my brother's wife that felt to me to be so insensitive and mean, that I find it very hard to respect your father now. Your mother has then said so many insensitive things to your Nona that I find it hard to respect your mother, to. Your parents still have my love, in the sense that I still care about their well-being, and still wish that they would snap out of the delusional world they are inhabiting -- a very insular world, one that seems perfect and safe to them, and one that seems imperfect to me. But they don't have my respect. And they don't seem to care. I try to follow the Christian example of forgiveness. I forgive your parents. But I'm just sad that you all have more years under their blinders.
Your father told me that his decisions about you do not come from church, but from his belief in the model of family life. He believes that the man of the house is the undisputed ruler of the house, that the wife defers to him. You should know, as young women, that the majority of households in this country are much more equal and fair -- that in the majority of households, men and women contribute equally or nearly equally to the decision making of the house. You should know that women sometimes are the decision makers. You should know that your mother is a very bright, very independent woman who has chosen to allow your father to make the decisions, and that she probably does help in the decision making process, but allows the world to think that your father is king. In the family that Nona and my father raised your mother, your uncle, and me in, even the children took part in the decisionmaking, because my parents asked for our input on important decisions. In your adult lives, you will be able to choose how you interact with people, with lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, mates, and spouses. You do not have to follow the model your parents probably tell you is the only path to Heaven.
Your father told me that the only model of the family that is acceptable is for the mother and father to marry and to stay together to raise the children. You should know that many people do not follow this path, and that doesn't make them less loving or less moral or less good. I know of many people who stayed together for the sake of the children, and some of these people have done their children more harm because they did not show the children the most important thing: love. Two men in love can raise healthy children if they love the children and show them love. So can two women, and so can a couple who are separated. So can a single mom or single dad. The only thing that matters is caring for people and showing them that you love them. By demanding that all people behave in one exact way, as your father does, your father excludes all kinds of people who would love to see you, help you grow, and shower you with love.
Your father will consider this letter to be proof that he should never have trusted me with his daughters. But it is his behavior that has polarized our family. It is his choice that he has rejected most of our family from his nuclear family. It is his behavior that made me make a choice to write this letter, to share with you my thoughts. Because he has insisted that I never see you again, it is important that you know the truth before you forget about me, and your other uncle, and your cousin. I just don't want you to grow up thinking, "Oh, yeah, I had some uncles ... I wonder why they didn't love me enough to hang around." We all care about you very much, and speaking for myself, it hurts a lot not being able to see you. I wish it weren't your parents' choice to exclude me from your lives.
I should explain why I question the ideals of the Unification Church (the Moonies). This is the church that you attend. The church is an extension of another world religion called Christianity. Your church is not Christianity. I don't believe in either church or the teachings of either church. There are many religions in this world. People seem to need religion, but can't seem to agree on which is the right one. To me, this seems very wrong. If there were a god, that god would certainly help us to understand the right way to live, if that god cared that we live a "right" way.
I do believe that there are some right ways to live, and as civilized people, we call these morals. Morals can be derived from logic, or from a belief in God. I get my morals from logic. Since I don't want anyone to be cruel or hurtful to me, I am not cruel or hurtful to anyone else. Since I would like to live as joyfully, creatively, healthfully, and constructively as possible, I treat others so that they, too, may enjoy the same. Morality is not simple. By writing this letter, I may hurt your mother and father. I may cause them to feel that I may hurt you. I don't believe this. I believe that I may help you. And that overrides my moral dilemma of whether helping you may hurt them. Because you are still forming as people, I feel that exposing you to my thoughts may help you feel loved. Whereas your parents are mature adults capable of handling whatever I might say about them.
At any rate, the reason I question your parents and their supposed church-based beliefs, is that they consistently withhold love from people who need it most. I understand that recently, your mother forbid one of you from seeing a dear playmate because that girl's father is in prison, and the girl is being cared for by her grandmother. By refusing for you to play with her, that girl now has less love and joy in her life than she certainly would have had with your presence. Is this the the kind of model that Jesus would have had us live. Christians believe in Jesus, and Moonies do too, to some extent, as you know. I don't believe in Jesus, but I believe the Bible has him saying some very good things. Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and to love thy neighbor as thyself, and to love thine enemy too, and to judge not lest ye be judged. If your parents were to follow these teachings, they would want you to play with your friend whose father is in jail -- the child needs love, and the father needs love, too. And if your parents followed the teachings of Jesus, they would still want me in your lives, to play tennis with you, to sing songs to you, to chase you around the house with a stuffed dinosaur, to watch you play soccer, to read to you, to love you and cherish you.
And so, dear nieces, please be well, and know that I love you. Know that I cherish the memories of times we got to spend together before your parents cut you off from the love of both of your uncles, your cousin, your grandfather, and at times, your Nona.