I just wanted to let you know that I received your letter and I understand that you’re upset about my absence from your life for these past thirteen years. You feel that I abandoned you, which is totally understandable but couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’ve been doing this whole time is fulfilling a promise I made to you. Allow me to explain.
First of all—and it’s not that I’m blaming you—but you were the one who asked me to build you a castle. You may remember it, you may not. At this point it sort of seems like you don’t, which makes sense because you were three years old at the time, but that’s not important. The important thing is that I’m not the kind of father who goes back on his word.
When you think about it, you’re really pretty lucky to have a father who cares so much about his promises. My dad always used to promise to go to my little league games, and do you know how many he actually showed up to? One. One game, and he left after the third inning. And yes, I know that’s one more game than I’ve been to, but you’ve got to see the bigger picture here. My father couldn’t make it to my games because he was too busy shooting pool and cheating on your grandmother. I’m too busy patrolling estate sales for vintage candelabra and importing nine hundred tons of limestone from that special quarry in France. I’m creating something. For you. For us.
You think a castle builds itself? It doesn’t. There’s a lot of work involved, but that’s what being a father is all about. It’s about commitment. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about fortifying the entrance to your castle with a wooden portcullis mounted in hand-carved vertical grooves. And that takes time. I’m no architect, just a simple father. A father who made a promise. To build an authentic medieval castle.
One day you’re going to thank me for this castle. One day in about ten to fifteen years if construction continues at its current pace and the bank doesn’t foreclose and there aren’t any more setbacks like that thing with the swamp.
You might not get this right now, but a man’s word is his bond. Do I wish that, instead of promising to build you a castle, I had promised to build you a tree house? Sure. You bet I do. You were three years old. You probably wouldn’t have known the difference. I could have built a pretty decent tree house in about two weeks and then, promise fulfilled, taught you how to throw a spiral and gone on camping trips and not spent your college fund. But I didn’t promise a tree house, I promised a castle, and a castle is what you’ll get.
What is my crime here? That I loved you too much? That I wanted my only son to have everything, everything he ever wanted, and more? Well, guilty as charged. Lock me away in the dungeon I spent eighteen months excavating. Chain me to the wall with the authentic fourteenth century shackles I commissioned from a blacksmith I met at the ironworking convention last summer and throw away the key (please don’t throw away the key, it’s a very expensive key). It’ll all have been worth it, just to see you smile.
I’m trying to build a place where we can create memories. What kind of memories do you think you’re going to create without a ten-foot-tall stained glass window, without a parade ground, without a drawbridge and a moat? Crappy memories, that’s what kind. Trust me, I would know.
So, no, I’m sorry, I can’t come to your Bar Mitzvah. There are more important things than Bar Mitzvahs. Like love. And family. And parapets. With punched openings for the discharge of defensive projectiles.
Seriously, you’re going to love these parapets.
One day, son, you’ll understand what I’m doing here. You’re going to have a wife of your own and, God willing, a child. You’re going to look into your child’s eyes and want to give him the world. And you will. And your wife will leave you but it’ll be for the best because she was standing in the way of your vision.
Nothing in life is easy. Remember that.
Jeremiah Budin is a “writer” living in “Brooklyn” who has been known to overuse “quotation marks.” His work has accumulated itself at jeremiahbudin.com.