From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul


The more we know, the better we forgive.

Madame de Stael

Up until she was five years old, my sister Peela (that’s what I called her and still do) had my mom all to herself. Then Mom remarried, and Peela felt a little left out. Mom’s new husband, my dad, adopted Peela shortly after, and she took his last name. When she was eight years old, I came along, and when she was ten, my little sister, Barbara, was born.

For her whole life, Peela felt like she was an outsider in our family. She got in trouble a few times as a teenager. She never felt like she belonged and thought that Dad never really cared for her. Even though her birth father had another family with several kids, and her visits with him were few and far between, she adored him in her own little fantasy.

Over the years, Peela always remembered our dad on Father’s Day and his birthday with cards or letters. She began this as a young girl, with drawings and handmade cards, and continued into adulthood, never forgetting a special occasion. Still, she felt certain that he was untouched by her gifts.

Peela was fifty years old when Dad passed away. She couldn’t bring herself to visit him in the hospital. She feared sarcasm or even rejection. But she came to support Mom the minute we called and informed her of his passing. She had no tears for Dad, only concern for Mom. Peela had lost her own husband a few years earlier, and so she was very helpful in guiding Mom through making funeral arrangements.

Mom and I decided that Peela could help us go through some of Dad’s belongings during her stay. He had a big gun cabinet with several drawers on one side. As we went through drawer-by-drawer, paper-by-paper, we found out he was quite the pack rat. Then we saw it—a bundle of cards, pictures and letters all kept together—every single thing Peela had given him over the years. I’ll never forget her looking at me with tears welling up in her eyes, then crying, “He really did care.”

We should have known.

Donna J. Gudaitis

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