So not Jean Valjean


Dear Ms. Feverfew –

This weekend, I have been going through a box of old pictures and things I have been dragging around for the past fifteen or so years. I have never felt strong enough to really sort through the items because I know what is in there. The box is full of pictures and tidbits of a life full of pain and heartbreak.

Pictures of you. Pictures of me. Pictures of me and you together. Pictures of my ex-husband and I on our wedding day. Pictures of my ex-husband, myself, and Matthew together on the day he was born. And there are also letters. Letters like this one.

Mar 28, 1999

Dear Melynda,

I am enclosing the article from the Church news for you, as it touched my heart and brought many found memories to me.

Your music has touched and enriched my life. I thank you for allowing me that blessing. I have never been prouder than when you sang, “The Holy City” for me. That is my favorite piece of sacred music. Your voice was so clear and forceful. Thank you.

Probably the highlight of the last two decades in my life involved your musical life as well. Do you remember that time I was able to provide transportation for a part of your chorale to Bountiful for a performance? I do. As we drove back to Utah County, the young people began a spontaneous song fest that I think I can still hear, even over the intervening years. The joy and great love you and those men women showed softens my heart even today as I remember.

I am eternally grateful to you for bringing this happiness and testimony into my life.

May God bless you,

Dad

It sounds like a letter a loving, righteous, and devoted father would write to his beloved daughter, right? I received countless letters from him like this, letters that sounded like he was a mission president or a stake patriarch. Now you might be thinking, “So what’s wrong with that letter? It seems like a lovely letter for a father to send to his daughter – any daughter would be pleased to receive such a tender letter from her father. Why would such a benign sounding letter be such a minefield?”

Well…where to begin, where do I even begin?

Oh, I know.

The part in which he writes, “I have never been prouder than when you sang, “The Holy City” for me….Your voice was so clear and forceful. Thank you.”

Uh….I never sang that song for anyone, much less him. I have never rehearsed the song, much less performed. EVER. I had to go look it up on the Internet to find out what the song was! Seriously. This treasured “memory” of his is a figment of his imagination. It NEVER happened.

This is not entirely surprising as he has a long and storied history of making up things. After all, this IS the same man who claims he broke BOTH ankles in a tragic skiing accident. The truth is he has never been skiing IN HIS LIFE that anyone, including his mother and siblings, can remember. Another fabricated instance is when he accused my mother and her friends of using sign language to coach my youngest sister in court while she was giving testimony against him when all the legal stuff was going on in 1995/6.  Turns out my little sister NEVER sat in front of a jury – any testimony she gave as a SIX YEAR OLD girl was done in a judge’s chambers with her social worker present. My mom wasn’t even in the room.

In his defense, my natural father is a master storyteller and can spin an *amazing* tale that can fool Stake Presidents, disciplinary councils, and parole boards alike.

But back to the letter at hand. The part about driving part of the choir I was in to Bountiful? Uh, not totally true either.

Yes, he did drive us to a performance, but we actually went to the Point of the Mountain, the Big House, you know, Utah State Prison there in Draper, which is rather ironic when I think about it. However, Draper is not quite Bountiful by any means – it’s a difference of another valley and another 30 miles. And the “spontaneous songfest” which moved him so deeply???? Silly Christmas Carols sung by a bunch of goofy young adults for five or so minutes, TOPS, before we all fell asleep on the ride home. THAT was the highlight of his last twenty years? Not the birth of any of his children? Grandchildren? The marriages of his children?

But the real kicker of the letter is the envelope in which the letter and newspaper article arrived at my home:

Yes. That’s right.

The letter was sent from Inmate Number 26496 at the Utah State Prison, AKA, my natural father.  Who was in prison for molesting children, myself included. For which he has NEVER apologized or even acknowledged any wrong doing.  So now does it make sense why that letter might be a minefield after all? It’s all about context baby, all about context.

The reason I even bring any of this up is back when I was going through the agonizing decision that lead to my eventual surrender to the adoption process, people (i.e. my mom and my Bishop) kept throwing my father’s behavior in my face.  I was strongly admonished REPEATEDLY that relinquishing you to adoption would protect you from him, that it was the only saving grace for you, the only way out of the family system…a hail Mary toss from a sinking ship.

Perhaps it was the only way for you to break free. I will never know. None of us will because what’s done is done and we all have to live with the consequences. What I do know is I have been able to successfully protect my other children from him and I would have done the same for you.

This whole situation often leaves me pondering one of the basic tenets of LDS theology. The 2nd Article of Faith states: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions.” Honestly, it feels as though my natural father’s behavior was used to punish me (through adoption). I often wonder if my natural father wasn’t such a disaster if my mom and bishop would have been more supportive in me keeping you.  As I said before, I will never never know. None of us will. What’s done is done and all we can do is move forward.

I don’t know why I feel like I can handle these things now, when in all the years past I haven’t.  If I am perfectly honest though, I am fighting an overwhelming urge to shove everything back in the box and put it back in the attic for another 15 or 20 years.

But I am tired of dragging this stuff around, literally, and figuratively. It’s time to sort it out and make sense of it all.

Much love,

M.

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2 thoughts on “So not Jean Valjean

  1. {{{{{{{Melynda}}}}}}}} ….that’s hugs, I think? I can’t remember the “virtual” hug sign! Maybe it’s XXXXXMelyndaXXXXXX Either way, I’m sending lots of them your way! Two

    • Thanks, Two.

      I honestly believe if it hadn’t been for the lies he riveted on my heart about my self-worth, I wouldn’t be in this sad sisterhood of first mothers. I know I signed the paperwork, but I have often wondered if he will be held at least partially responsible for what happened to me and his granddaughter in the here after.

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