As I was writing His Father Still, my agent Joy and I tried to convince editors that the book’s audience would be much more than bereaved parents — that the book would appeal to all parents, because one of its central messages is to cherish the teen you have, now matter what the challenges of the moment. Here is a letter received from a mother who has read His Father Still. I think you will find her words inspiring — and in them I found a measure of vindication.
I finished your book last night– a journey for me with many tears, both from devastating sadness and also from inspiration. I just wanted to let you know how profoundly your story impacted me.
We have a 19-year-old son, Andrew. I saw Andrew in every word you wrote about Reid. Andrew is Reid and Reid is Andrew. We adopted Andrew as an infant. He has severe ADHD and learning challenges. He is handsome, fun, irreverent, charming, empathetic and funny, uncommonly close to his sister, a lover of our dogs. He has challenged us to the breaking point many times since the day we brought him home. We raised him in our community which, like West Hartford, is full of genetically gifted and motivated kids, as well as intense, driven parents and a school system that seems tailored to the high achievers. It has been a constant challenge to keep Andrew’s self-esteem intact. At every turn, that self-esteem took a beating, resulting in bouts of severe anxiety and depression. A good kid, many talents, lots of friends, no shortage of girls, adventurous, bad grades, no study habits, dabbling in pot, a video-playing lump, surly and withdrawn around the house, insecure in his place in a world that often seems inhospitable to him and where his strengths are undervalued. I considered it my job — really my only job for 20 years — to get and keep him on a path that would lead him to be a productive, self-sufficient and, hopefully, content adult.
That of course meant endless shuffling of schools, meetings, emails, conflicts with teachers and administrators, nagging about, keeping track of, helping with, and agonizing over homework and tests, finding the right therapy, the right meds, the right summer programs. Eventually, at 17, a wilderness program. School attendance, chores, anger, beer, the car, SAT scores. There was another shoe always about to drop. My family life did not seem to resemble the family life of many of my friends and I was occasionally angry and resentful, often scared and sad.
I knew in some corner of my mind that I needed to keep my eye on the beauty in his soul, the kindness in his heart. But that knowing was most often overtaken by worry and its attendant action cry– fix this!!
Your book changed me. And when my husband finishes it, I am confident it will change him too. While I will continue of course to do my parental job, I will forever hold you and Reid in my heart as a reminder to, above all, love and cherish him, and have gratitude that he is here with me. You showed me that the struggles are just external, temporal, surface, not really so damn important. It sounds like a simple and maybe obvious message, but it is not. Despite loads of therapy, reading and yoga, I did not really fully get this message until I read your book. Maybe it was the parallels between Andrew and Reid, or the way you described your grief and sorrow, that burrowed so deeply into me, that I just will never feel like the same person, the same parent, again.
I imagine nothing can ever soften the blow you and your family have taken, but please know that our family is forever changed by having read your story. And that will reverberate and pay dividends long into the future. I have discussed your story with Andrew and told him in as concrete a way as I can (he, like Reid, is not a fan of the analytical) that he is already a full success in my mind and that I cherish him for exactly who he is, just as he is. I can already see a greater lightness in him just from hearing those words.
For First-Time Visitors
For those visiting for the first time: Welcome! I hope you find the blog informative and user-friendly.
I have been posting articles since September 2009, and I started with what might be considered the most basic and important topics. So, if you want to start your reading with those initial posts, just click through the Archives for September – October 2009, and work forward from there.
Proceeds from advertising on this blog are paid to my son’s memorial fund, which supports day care tuition for infants and toddlers in the City of Hartford.
Not So Fast – honored by Governors Highway Safety Association, national public service award, September 2014
This blog – recognized by U. S. Department of Transportation’s 2010 public service award, the nation’s highest civilian award for traffic safety
Tim Hollister – designated Traffic Safety Hero of the Year by the AAA Club of Southern New England, 2012
Teen/Parent Safe Teen Driving Contract Model
REACH YOUR TEENS!
Some of you have seen my “Open Letter” to new teen drivers that was published by AOL Autos on its Autoblog on July 22 (not coincidentally, Reid’s 25th birthday). We now have permission to reprint it. Feel free to use or forward anywhere this might be useful. My thanks again to Sharon Carty, Executive Editor of AOL Autos, for giving me the opportunity to prepare a stand-alone piece for teen drivers, to go with my blog materials and book, Not So Fast, which are directed to parents.
On December 2, 2006, my seventeen-year-old son, Reid, the driver, died in a one-car accident. On a three-lane Interstate highway that he probably never had driven before, on a dark night just after rain had stopped…
Note: Photo of Tim speaking at Fitch High School, Groton, Connecticut, April 24, 2014 — by Tim Martin of the New London Day, reprinted with permission.