Joe Scalia, twice divorced, is the father of four grown children and grandfather of six grandchildren. Born and raised in Borough Park, Brooklyn, he lives in Farmingdale, Long Island, where he taught English and Creative Writing for 33 years to reluctant junior and senior high school students. He has published five books: the novels “Freaks” and “Pearl” and three short story collections, “No Strings Attached,” “Brooklyn Family Scenes” and “Scalia vs. The Universe or My Life and Hard Times.”
Well, son, it has been far too long since we have spoken more than a few terse sentences on the telephone, almost a year and a half, and even longer since we have had any kind of meaningful conversation. Any word I have about you comes from your sisters and brother. But that isn’t much. They will never say anything to breach your confidence or alienate you from them. So my emails go unread, my phone calls unanswered, and you have slipped away. I miss you terribly. All of my attempts to tell you how I feel since you shut down communications have been misinterpreted and gone unanswered.
I have always worried about you. And since the accident two years ago that almost took you away, I worry even more. Your silence can’t just be because of the money you said you needed. This has gone on far too long for that. And though I told you it was a loan, frankly, Jess, I didn’t really expect to see a penny. I had hoped to hear, “Thanks, Dad. I’ll pay you back when I can.” Instead, you said I let you down, that I wasn’t the person you thought I was. Your words hurt and your silence that followed hurts even more.
I have asked myself many times what I could have done, what I might have said, how I should have handled matters then, but I am at a loss. Could it be that my expectations are unrealistic? Or are yours? Neither of us is new to this father-son thing. You aren’t a moody teenager; you are 28. And at my age, God knows having four kids has given me enough opportunities to get it right, or at least “get it better” now and then. Hell, we are both old enough to see the world a bit more clearly, to compromise without giving up on our principles, to forgive people for what they are or what they aren’t, to forgive ourselves for not being perfect. We are old enough at least to talk to one another.
I want you to know, because I love you, I will continue to send emails though you may delete them unread; I will call and leave messages on your phone you may never hear; I will post cards and notes as long as the U.S. mail is around to deliver them. Because I love you, Jess, I will never give up hope. I want you to know, my son, that I miss you terribly every day.Your loving father
P.S. — Since sending you this letter, I left you voicemails, filling you in family stuff but keeping it light. You eventually called me back and we spoke for about five minutes. You then called me about two weeks later and we talked again. I have no idea whether your change of heart had anything to do with the letter. But it makes no difference. I’m just glad we’ve connected twice since I sent it.