I am very fortunate, here you have made an excellent point.
I was born privileged. I had a father who adored me, and a mother who was there for me when my life was falling apart and I believed I might never be whole. My parents saw to my education, gave me direction, purpose and a passion for life. They gifted me with their love as well as their incredibly high expectations for personal discipline and achievement. Most importantly, my parents made sure I could think for myself – even to the extent of disregard for convention. I was privileged, yes – but the only thing I had is what every child should have, and deserves.
And yes, I was born rich. But nothing was ever just handed to me, my father made sure of that. “To those much has been given, much is expected,” were words to live by in our house. I spent part of my school holidays volunteering – the American Red Cross, Special Olympics, an orphanage in India, a school in rural Nicaragua – just to name a few. Believe me when I say I well understood just how lucky I was; I saw firsthand the horrors of poverty and hopelessness, and I felt the responsibility to improve lives where I could.
As to my lack of dedication and discipline in childhood; no, I did not play softball and I was not a Girl Scout – perhaps you’ll find this to be analogous:
I began playing the piano at three, the violin at five; soon thereafter I spent more than an hour each day in practice. By age six I spoke fluent French and was no longer permitted to speak English at dinner. Reading literary classics was required, as were book reports – oral and written, and this was apart from school curricula. I also studied ballet, read the New York Times and was expected to be conversant and knowledgeable about current events as well as The Arts. Again, I feel every child should have the attention, guidance and direction of her parents and make no apologies for my solid upbringing – and to suggest that Rich Children have no discipline, or parental involvement and affection is patently absurd.
I do not personally know Paris Hilton, so I can’t say for sure, but your comparison of her to me seems a bit misguided – at least respective to what I know of her adult life. If Paris Hilton is the rubric by which you measure all Rich People, I feel you must see us dilettantes, which you should know by now I am not.
You suggest that I should feel some kind of guilt for my life. I have no guilt, no shame for having had the advantages I have had – why should I?
I availed myself of no free rides. I harmed no one. I have taken advantage of no one. I have given of myself – my time, not just charitable donations. I work and I always have.
My life, in some ways, may appear to be easier because of what I have, but I have never believed that wealth and privilege make me better or more important than anyone else, and I have never conducted myself as though I believe that I am, somehow, superior – as you suggest.
Please understand I am offering no justification here, nor do I feel I must present counterpoint to your inaccurate points of assumption, but my life is nothing you imagine it to be, and it never has been …
Your belief that I have “never had a REAL problem in my life,” seems to come from your belief that money is the be-all-and-end-all for happiness and fulfillment – it is not. Having financial freedom might make life easier in certain respects, I’ll give you that, but money is not a panacea – the trials of life happen to us all, rich and poor alike.
Your son had many demons – some you know, and some you were spared meeting. He was many things – beautiful/brooding, thoughtful/obsessive, kind/filled-with-rage, capable/broken, romantic/isolated, stable/unbalanced, successful/driven by fear, troubled/accomplished. I don’t think Paul was ever comfortable within himself – ever at peace, and that is heart breaking.
I am not responsible for Paul – not for who he was, or for what happened to him. There is no one to blame; you were the best mother you knew how to be, and I tried to be a good wife. Sometimes, all we do isn’t enough.
Like you, I have wished that Paul and I never met. In my sadness this wish seemed noble somehow, but then I remembered all that wish would erase; the very real happiness he knew for many years, the love he learned to accept and give, an understanding that the world, and life, can be beautiful, the satisfaction that came from knowing he was a good father — he knew these things because of what we shared, and they enhanced his life immeasurably. I no longer naively envision a world in which Paul and I did not meet, or marry. No more will I torture myself with thoughts he’d have been better off without me; it did not end well, but that does not mean our love was invalid or wrong.
Much of the content in your note was known to me – your thoughts and feelings about my childhood of privilege, my parents, your belief in who I am, but some of what you said was unfamiliar, too – and then it occurred to me that you, like me, are a victim of Paul’s misrepresentations. I feel no need to clarify at this juncture, or even understand; that well is deep, dark and full of terrors. As for your misconceptions about me, this is the last time I will try to explain.
I will end by saying my door is open, just as it has always been; you have five grandchildren, each of whom possesses all the good that was Paul, who will welcome you back.
Thanksgiving dinner is at 7:00 o’clock, but the festivities will begin early in the day; I would very much like it if you would join us.