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The Power of Objects

People try to imbue all sorts of objects with power. Whether it be a crucifix, a “lucky charm,” or a New Age crystal, people are generally willing to claim that objects radiate some sort of mystical or spiritual power for no other reason than because somebody else told them it was so, or because they happened to be wearing that lucky T-shirt when they won a big hand at the casino. For whatever reasons, human beings believe things can contain power, even though we have no rational basis for believing so. In a sense, we are all animists, ever willing to accept the notion that the objects that exist in our environment can affect us or alter our destinies in some way.

For the left-behind father, this is not a matter of unfounded belief. He knows in a very direct and visceral sense the power that some objects really do contain. When we look at our daughter’s baby cup, or her favorite teddy bear, or the blanket with which she was once inseparable, we know all too well the very real power that objects have to propel us into another realm — a realm in which time no longer exists, the place of our yesterdays.

Why should these simple objects evoke any more memories for the left-behind dad than they would for any other father? What makes the power these toys and kiddie books and teeny tiny shoes any stronger than it might be for the everyday dad? It is because we have lost our connection to the present. The cord which binds us to this place and time with regard to our children has been severed, and we are thus only connected to our kids through this thread which stretches back in time, to a place where a genuine, not imagined, relationship with our loved ones once existed. Although we still feel like fathers now without our kids, it is only in some vague, esoteric sense that we feel so, much the way an amputee may feel phantom pains in a limb that no longer exists. However, we know that we once were daddies for real back in that other place, and we have the pictures and Barbie dolls and Legos to prove it.

So folks can feel free to kneel before images of their gods, or leave their crystals out in the moonlight to charge, or rub their lucky coin when the dice are rolling. If people want to believe that they can see their futures by shuffling Tarot cards, that’s all right with left-behind fathers. Because we know the truth about the genuine power of objects — those imbued with memories from another place and time, those simple, everyday things that she once held in her little hand or wore on her little feet, and which can cause the strongest of men to shed tears with even the most cursory of glances.

The Lasts


Only Lasts

For the left behind parent, there are no more firsts; there are only lasts. You are not there for her first day at elementary school. You are not there for the first time she rides a two-wheeler. You are not there for the first time her heart gets broken and she needs someone there to help mend it. You are not there for any more firsts. Your entire relationship with your child consists only of lasts.

You remember the last time you went to the zoo together, and the last time you pushed her on a swing. You remember the last picture the two of you ever had taken together. You remember the last time you sang her to sleep at night, and the last time you played in the sandbox at the park together. You remember the last trip you took together, and the last time she saw her grandmother and grandfather and aunts and uncles. And you remember, of course, the last time you said good-bye to one another, and the last time you kissed her little forehead. You remember the last time you saw your child’s face as she slowly walked away from you, unaware at the time that that would indeed be the last time you would to see her.

Ours is a world populated by endings, by finalities. Ours is a universe that is not infinite, but instead undeniably finite. The only continuation of your life with your daughter occurs in your own mind, imagining what her life might be like now, but never knowing, never knowing. Part of our world – what had been the most important part – has come to an end, and we can only dream of a renaissance, of a new beginning. Ours is as a ship at sea attempting to navigate the waters by looking back toward whence we came and consulting charts of the destinations of our yesterdays.

In your home, you create shrines and photo galleries and special niches that are dedicated to the firsts, a sort of museum of your parenthood. There you are holding your daughter for the first time. There you are feeding her from a bottle for the first time. There you are feeling your world light up the first time she genuinely smiles at you. There you are celebrating your first Christmas together. This museum of your lives together you create to avoid the dreaded lasts. But the lasts always, inevitably undo the firsts, and the tears you were sure were over are the only new beginnings that exist for you now as a parent.

And you wonder, what would you have done differently had you known that that last weekend you went to the park together was going to be your last weekend period? Would you have said or done anything differently? Would you have held her a little tighter, told her a few more times how much you loved her, or asked her a few more times not to forget her old dad while you were apart? You reckon none of that would have changed a thing, that the course set by others to separate you from your child was too powerful to overcome. And yet you yearn for that one last something, that one last anything, knowing now what you did not know then — that your days of firsts had come to an end.


The Well of Sadness


There is a place to which you go even though you know you should not. You are driven by an unquenchable thirst to feel, to somehow connect with that which once was, but is no more. Across a desert of loneliness you cross, feeling the searing heat of the unadulterated sun upon your back, while you try in the bright light of day to make sense of the loss and alienation that has become your life.

The vast expanse of endless sand is strangely comforting, though, because it places distance between yourself and that which you know will cause you pain. The desert has no memory, and so we can become lost in a wilderness of our own making, where the bad things cannot harm us. The starkness allows no place for monsters to hide.

Inevitably, though, you must drink. The memories are the only thing, you believe, capable of rehydrating your withered life, this shell of a father, this man both with child yet without child, this curious remnant of family living all alone in his forlorn man cave. Left behind. Left behind.

Thus, you make your way to the Well of Sadness. There the water is cool and refreshing. It lets you experience ever so briefly the happiness that you felt as a parent once upon a time, in that place that is displaced from you in time. It reminds you that it was real, that even though you wander the desert now as one cast aside, it really happened, that once you were Daddy. Yet the water in the well is unsafe to drink. Memories that bring most parents delight cause intense pain, and you find yourself doubled over cursing the ladle that brought the water to your lips. And though you know that you must stop, the Well calls unto you, and invites you to drink. “More.” “More.” And you do not resist.



June 30, 2015

Dear Lili-chan,

It really struck me today when I thought about the fact that it was 17 years ago that I was waiting at the hospital for you to come into this world. I couldn’t get my mind around the idea because for me, in many ways, time has stood still. I don’t know you now. All I know is the loving kid you used to be, and how close you and I once were. Six-year old Lili is the last face-to-face image I have of you in my mind.

And I’m still here, in the place that is left behind, nurturing the memories of the only daughter I know — that beautiful little girl who loved her Daddy so much, and who was and is loved by her Daddy back.

You are taking your first cautious steps across the floor where I sit as I write this. You are playing on the swings, lighting sparklers, and building sand castles in the neighborhood park. I can hear you running to the door to greet me after you hear my footsteps on the outside stairs. You are nestled in bed, asking me to sing “Rock-a-My-Baby” (your cute title) “one hundred thousand hundred million billion times more.” And I roll my eyes and say in a funny voice, “Dat’s too much!” And we laugh and laugh! 😂😂😂

So I don’t know what or if you think about your Dad too much, but I know I not only think of you — your presence is aways felt around these parts.

This song, by The Chi-Lites, captures much of the feelings I had after you stopped coming by Higashi-Nakano to visit. I still feel like someday I may bump into you around town, so I guess I’m always looking out for you in a way.

Memories are all I can give you now. That and a father’s love, which I hope you someday come to realize.

You are always in my heart! 💘💘💘

Love always,

Dad 💓😍💓

Have You Seen Her?

by The Chi-Lites

One month ago today
I was happy as a lark
But now I go for walks
To the movies – maybe to the park
And have a seat on the same old bench
To watch the children play (huh)
You know, tomorrow is their future
But to me, just another day
They all gather around me
They seem to know my name
We laugh, tell a few jokes
But it still doesn’t ease my pain

I know I can’t hide from a memory

Though day after day I’ve tried

I keep sayin’ she’ll be back
But today again I lied

Oh, I see her face everywhere I go
On the street, and even at the pictureshow
Have you seen her?
Tell me, have you seen her?
Oh, I hear her voice as the cold winds blow
In the sweet music on my radio
Have you seen her?
Tell me, have you seen her?

Why, oh, why
Did she have to leave and go away (oh, yeah)
Oh-oh-oh, I’ve been used to havin’ someone to lean on
And I’m lost
Baby, I’m lost (Oh)

Oh, she left her kiss upon my lips
But left that break within my heart
Have you seen her?
Tell me, have you seen her?
Oh, I see her hand reaching out to me
Only she can set me free
Have you seen her?
Tell me, have you seen her?

As another day comes to an end
I’m lookin’ for a letter or somethin’
Anything that she would send
With all the people I know
I’m still a lonely man
You know, it’s funny
I thought I had her in the palm of my hand

[Repeat to fade:]
Have you seen her
Tell me, have you seen her (tell me, have you seen her?)



Dear Lili,

Thinking of you as always on Valentine’s Day. There is no greater love than that of a father for his daughter. Know that, no matter what happens, I will always be there for you. You are my special princess, and 

You are always in my heart!

Love always,


<3 <3 <3


Christmas 2014

Dear Lili,

Merry Christmas, Sweetheart! I hope you’re having a happy time.

I think about you a lot at Christmas time. Every year I put up prints of the drawings you made, and it make me feel a little bit like you’re here. Of course, you’re always with me in my heart. 



I put up the Christmas tree every year. I bought some new LED lights and it looks really beautiful this year. I hope you come to see it one day and spend a few days at Christmastime with your Dad like we used to do. It was always a special time of year for us.


I often think of the happy times we shared, like how you used to ride on my shoulders, which you called “ride on top.”

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Missing you most at Christmas, and hoping for the day when we no longer have to be separated at this time of year…

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Love always and forever,

Your Loving Dad <3 <3 <3

Ashokan Farewell


Ashokan Farewell:



Dear Lili,

This is kind of a sad song, I guess. It makes me think of the last time I saw your face nearly ten years ago now. Your grandmother had just passed away, and I was allowed 30 minutes in the train station in the coffee shop to tell you the news. As you walked away, I never realized at the time that it would be the last I’d see you for all these many years. What might I have said to you had I known, I cannot say.

Anyway, here is the song called Ashokan Farewell, performed by Jay Unger and the Molly Mason Family Band.

Missing you always.

Love forever,

Daddy <3 <3 <3


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