Duke's Redemption

Page 77

My eyes flick from images of me playing soccer as a kid to me winning first place in the 8th grade science fair. There are pictures of both my high school and college graduations.
Scattered among the photos are assorted informational pieces. There’s a newspaper article accompanying the science fair photo as well as a local article discussing my publishing business when it opened.
There’s even a wristband from the hospital when I was born.
I don’t understand. I don’t understand any of this. Frustrated, I chug the glass of wine sitting on the table and hand it to Duke to refill. Neither one of us has said a word since I started going through the box. Well, I have muttered about a hundred curse words, but we haven’t spoken toeach other.
At this point, I don’t think he knows what to say. And quite frankly, I don’t either. This whole thing is completely overwhelming.
The only thing that I haven’t looked at yet is a thick manila envelope. I’ve been avoiding it, but I figure I may as well rip the bandage off and get it over with.
I take another drink of liquid courage before opening it up. I reach inside and bring out a stack of papers.
Deciding I should probably sit down for this, I have a seat at the table and start to go through everything. The bulk of it seems to be letters. I read through a couple of them, and they are from my dad addressed to my mother.
The first one reads:
You haven’t returned a single one of my letters, but I can’t stop trying. I’m so sorry I can’t be there for you and Avery. You know why it has to be this way. I promise to make it up to you both one day. I’ll never stop loving either one of you.
The next says:
I can't wait for things to be settled. I bought a house that I know you will love, and I pray for the day that you and Avery come to stay in it. Please tell her I love her, and I can't wait to see her again.
Most of the letters from him read the same way. There is one actually addressed to me.
My hands shake as I open the folded piece of paper.
My dear Avery,
I’m so sorry I haven’t been there for you as a father should be. I wish I could explain it to you, but I can’t. Not yet, anyway. I promise to one day. Please just know that I’m always here for you, even if it may not seem like it.
Please don’t give up on me.
Tears well up in my eyes as I read over it. Why have I never seen this before now?
As I look further through the envelope, though, I get my answer. It’s not another lettertomy mother, but instead, it’s onefrommy mother.
I’ve put up with getting your letters for years, but I won’t stand for you sending them to our daughter. You opted to leave us, and no matter how much you may have thought it was the right thing, I can’t agree with you.
For her own sake, I have never told Avery anything about you or your situation. She thinks that you left when she was a baby, and we haven’t heard from you since.
Here are all your letters back. Don’t bother reaching out again. Your letters will never get to her.
Deal with what you need to deal with, but we won’t be waiting here when you get done.