I still remember when, back in high school, back in those days when the darkness was heavy like tar that stuck to our bones, we spent so many nights driving home from his office building. I still wonder how many other teens sat in waiting rooms, staring at walls and half-reading gossip magazines, before trading places with their mother on a therapist’s couch. I don’t begrudge you for that. You know I never will, right? It was your journey as much as it was mine. And in some ways I loved those car rides. Delilah on 101.9, the city closing up shop for the night, stars coming out through the haze of the city lights, constellations whose stories I had yet to learn by heart. I had, in those days, never felt closer to you than I did on those nights as we talked our way down the highway.
I still remember how upset you were when our shared therapist told you in confidence not to talk to me about conspiracies and religion, crystals and tarot readings. He believed such new age talks would screw me up and confuse me somehow, keep me from believing in anything, keep me from growing up to be a proper god-fearing individual. Thank you for telling me what he said and not chastising me when I responded by calling him an idiot, though I wanted to call him worse. Thank you for ignoring him and your initial fears that he may be right. Thank you for continuing to discuss the universe with me, to take me to new age shops filled with crystals and tarot cards, to nurture this curiosity that had no outlets other than restless nights on the internet, researching all the questions a southern, cradle catholic couldn’t ask out loud, books on witchcraft bought in secret, and late night car rides consumed with discussions about Hitler and the occult, Atlantis, and past lives.
Thank you for accepting with such outstanding grace and understanding when, as an adult, I proved him right and failed to grow up to be a proper god-fearing individual. Thank you for listening as I transitioned over the years from agnostic, to deist, to pagan. And thank you most of all for the day, once again in your car, you asked me what I was believing in these days. For adding, “No judgment” when you sensed my hesitation. For listening as I explained my beliefs in the nature, in the universe, in energies and karma, that the gods are nothing more than a way for us mortals to explain those energies, that the only word I felt summed up my beliefs was witch. Thank you especially for calling me a tree-hugger with pride and excitement when I explained to you how touching a tree alone in the middle of the woods filled me with all the unexplainable feelings everyone expected of me as I was, at thirteen and already doubting my beliefs in a Catholic god, being primed for confirmation.
But more than that, thank you for teaching me how to question the world around me and how to not take anything at face value, and at the same time not to take anything too seriously. The words you taught me, “even if it’s not true, it’s still fun to think about,” have become a mantra I find myself repeating when met with naysayers, a mantra I reconfigured as a teen to ward off accusations that my tastes weren’t “cool” enough, a mantra that has fueled my writing for all these years. Because what fun is fiction if all we write about is the truth, and what is the point of this gift if we can’t use it to dream up impossible possibilities? You taught me that. And no thanks to that therapist who, in some alternate reality, convinced you not to speak to me of such things, leaving me to be half the person I have become in this reality.
For that, I will thank you every chance I get.
With gratitude and love,
Your tree-hugging, ghost chasing, tarot reading, conspiracy theorist