The idea of writing a letter to you has been following me for years. At this point, I don’t even remember when I thought of it first. Was it three years ago? Maybe five? Maybe even ten.
These days, I mostly type on my laptop—sometimes thinking about the typewriter you had at work, in your big office. But this letter I am writing on a yellow pad, the way I used to write to you when you were alive.
I also decided to write in English. I figured at this point you probably speak all the languages ever known to humankind. How else can in be in heaven, right?
You passed away 13 years, 6 months, and 5 day ago. I still miss you.
There are so many things that happened since then. I am not sure where to start, but I know I want to tell you everything. Actually, come to think of it, I also want to talk to you about the things that happened when you were still alive, but I never had a chance to tell you about them or about what I thought.
You are probably wondering why I chose this day among all of the days that passed since your death. To be honest, I don’t have the answer. But I wonder if it had anything to do with the inhaler I received from Dr. Schieken two days ago. The feeling is strange, amazing, liberating. I finally feel like I am alive again. I can breathe fully!
You know, Maryland is not very good at this time of the year for people with allergies, but it is peculiarly beautiful. When I look at the lash green surroundings, I remember how much you loved trees, and how you believed that the green color has calming, relaxing properties.
Anyway, this inhaler opened my lungs the way they were’t open for years—perhaps even from the time before you passed away. I feel light and energetic, and sort of calm and less afraid. I can read and write for hours and I barely get tired. These past two days reminded me of how it used to be when I was younger.
I want to say, “Don’t worry about me being afraid,” but I would like to believe that in the afterlife we won’t concern ourselves with such a small perspective. I want to tell you about “afraid” only because of what you said about leaving Poland. Remember? You insisted on me coming back at some point. You even made me promise you that. And I did, but only to make you happy, and help you die peacefully. Besides, Dad asked me to promise you that, because Ola refused. She said, I am not coming back, and I am not going to lie about it.
I am not sure if I was lying back then. Maybe I wasn’t sure if I were going to go back to Poland. I don’t remember anymore, but after 20 years in the United States, I know I am not going back. At the same time, I have come to question the benefits of leaving one’s birth place for many reasons, and this is where the word “afraid” plays its role.
I have observed many immigrants, including myself, being “afraid” without any particular reason, and I wonder if it comes from being (or feeling) uprooted. After all, nothing, starting with the taste of food and ending with social interaction, is familiar to those who come here from all over the world. Many form communities and stay together, like Poles in Chicago or on Greenpoint in New York, or Koreans, or Mexicans, and so on. It’s like they want to be here, in the United States, and there, in their old country, at the same time. Some of them don’t even learn English (can you imagine?) and surround themselves with everything and anything that reminds them of their old country.
I am asking the question you would ask: Excluding severe political or religious circumstances, is it better to stay in the place one was born? Considering also those who gain here financial freedom and go back to their countries of origin to retire, why would they go back after decades of being here? What makes them go back? Some even leave their children (adult children, but still…) behind to go back. Why?
Perhaps what influences us in our formative years becomes the fiber of our being, and makes us remember the one and only true taste of bread from the bakery around the corner? Perhaps deep inside we want to reconnect with the smell of home when coming from a hot summer day we entered a cool hallway filled with a scent of our favorite soup or pie? Or maybe we want to go back to the lanscape that greeted us daily—a long row of linden trees in the hot moist sweet air of the afternoon? Or is it the rough skin of someone’s hand who patted our cheek? Here, now, now, have a piece of chocolate, the person said.
I don’t know, but I know that I want to think about it.
With all my love to you, Mom, until the next time,