Josephine Elizabeth Barrett Shane

Dear Jo,

It’s been a long time, 30 years come this August, since we last saw each other. So much has happened since then that I hardly know where to begin.

I guess the first thing to say is that I’m sorry we didn’t like each other. Maybe if you hadn’t died, we would have gotten to know each other better - as adults - and some of the bad feelings would have disappeared.

I don’t know why you were so disappointed in me, and for years after you died I was angry at you for telling me that all the time. In fact, I hated you. I stopped thinking of you as “Mom,” and felt relieved that you were out of my life.

Funny thing is, you’ve never really been out of my life. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think of you.

I want you to know that I don’t hate you anymore. I can’t honestly say that I love you, but I do honor you and WANT to love you. Perhaps that will come.

I certainly didn’t turn out the way you wanted me to. I never became a teacher or a nurse (which is what you wanted); I work as a staff writer for a newspaper. Bet you can’t believe that!

I never married, and for years I was miserable about that. You always taught me that having a man was the most important thing in the world, but you also told me that no man would want me because I was big and ugly. I’m not unhappy about being single anymore, and I’ve realized over the past few years that you were wrong about both having a man and my being ugly.

I left L.A., the place you loved, and moved to Washington, the kind of place you tried to escape. I love it here, and felt like I was home the first time I crossed the state line.

In spite of a lot of chaotic years, I’m very happy now. I have a beautiful home, good friends and a wonderful best friend (a golden retriever named Sarah), an adequate income, a good relationship with Judy and Gary and Auntie Anne, the memory of a romantic relationship that didn’t end in marriage but was and is the best that anyone could want (his name was Robert Allan, just like Dad’s…weird, huh…and no, I didn’t plan it that way), I’m your exact opposite politically, and I’ve found a “religion” that isn’t based on fear, guilt and shame - one that has made me want to reconnect with you.

It took a long time, but when I started to live MY life instead of yours, or the one you told me I should live, things began to fall into place.

Having said all of that, I want to tell you that one of the few things I regret about my life is the bad feeling between us. I’m not proud of the fact that I felt relieved when you died, but when I could honestly admit it to myself, I was able to move on to other stages. I’m sorry that my dreams of you are always nightmares, that I’m afraid of your memory, and I hope that will change someday.

If I could make a wish, I’d wish that we could have some time together to talk and maybe get to know each other as people. Who knows? We might even like each other after all.

My wish for you is that you are happy and at peace. I know you were unhappy most of your life, so I hope that you have done better in death.

You don’t need to worry about me, or feel guilty about anything. All of that is in the past, and I believe (and pray) that you were vindicated in the Hall of Judgment.

More than anything else, I hope you are at peace with Netjer. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.

Your daughter,
May 23, 1998