When I told my father off, he wrote a couple of letters in reply. Several months later I read them.
I was bored that evening, and feeling lonely for no reason I could see. I said so in my public journal, and watched for a response... when email arrived a half hour later I jumped on it, but it was an ad. I had a little bit to drink, first Chartreuse, then Jagermeister. It was in this context that I chose to finally read his letters. I had put it off long enough that I started to wonder if I feared his reply, so I had to read.
Because I had accused my father, he was naturally compelled to defend and explain himself. He told me his version of the events surrounding his relationship with my mother and his early relationship with me, their separation, and so on.
Where my mother told me he'd left her for someone from his company, my father told me he was transferred out west, that he'd asked my mother to come along, but she'd declined and wanted to end the relationship. My mother told me he had abrogated his financial responsibility; my father said she insisted on being financially independent from him, and what he'd given had been largely at his insistence. His account went on to state that they got back together later (in my mother's telling there was no formal breakup) just to mess around. In my mother's version, my father led her to believe he'd ultimately leave his wife for her, but my father denied that 'any statement, promise, or suggestion that I would leave here and be with her' was ever made.
According to my father, my mother recently denied telling me he said he was gonna dump Janet. Which could be entirely correct. I'm unsure she ever stated it outright... I can't remember any instance where my parents said they were married, for example. But while nobody lied outright, I was allowed to believe it through evasion of the issue, through systematic deception. Concepts like infidelity and fornication are too harsh for little ears, and by the time I grew up, what did it matter?
In the same way, I was never told my father was cheating on his wife... nor was I told that my mother was in an adulterous relationship with the man she saw after my father, as he alleged. I was simply made to assist with the deception as necessary.
The letter disclosed that his weekly visits to the psychiatrist weren't for some sort of emotional disorder. He was in fact displaying the earliest stages of Alzheimer's syndrome. I am more thankful that I do not expect to grow old. But I found myself feeling pity for my father in spite of myself. Whatever else he might have been, he has always had a strong mind and commanding presence, and though disgusted with him, I did not like to imagine his mind rattling apart. He also suffers from alcoholism, emphysema and asthma, a result of his ceaseless smoking and drinking, and not my problem.
There was also part of me that worried about sending a vehement letter to someone who might be innocent of the charges, but I suppressed that as completely as I could.
What was apparent to me immediately was that I had no way of knowing what the truth was. Each of my parents could insist all they wanted that they were telling the truth, but I had no compelling evidence that could persuade me to choose one account or one detail over another... nothing rational, at least. A significant piece of my past had become unverifiable.