Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

From the Child of a Parent Who Chose Death

February 4, 2014

Tags: compassionate wisdom, healing

Dear Dad,

I’m about to turn 63 this week, 13 years older than you when decided to end it all by blowing your brains out. It was 1968 when you made this choice, and the world is very different now. Now alcohol and drug rehab programs are rampant; people talk about “dysfunctional families”—for which there was no word, let alone help, when I was growing up; there are “family services” and “support groups” and it’s understood that bad things happen to good people.

I understand that you were in so much pain that you felt that you couldn’t stand another minute of it. I understand that the pain and depression or desperation or whatever was driving you nuts overwhelmed you. I understand that you were probably diagnosably mentally ill as well as addicted to drugs and alcohol, although you never sought such a diagnosis or any kind of help. I understand that mental illness is an illness and your brain was not working right.

However, I am your daughter—one of the four children you decided to leave alone in the world. And I also understand that because you made that decision to pull the trigger, you made a judgment—that your pain and suffering and inability to tolerate it were more important than we were. That you did not have the bottomless love for us that parents are assumed to have for their children. That protecting us and helping us grow up were not your top priority. That you probably were not very curious about what we felt or what we would become. Honestly, I’ve only come to this understanding in the last decade.

For the first three decades after you died, I didn’t think about you, and if I did, I figured maybe you did the right thing—that in some twisted way you did it for us, because had you not killed yourself, you likely would have killed all of us in one of your rages. So it was cool; you saved our lives by ending your own.

It took many years and a lot of help before I realized you actually didn’t do this for us. You did it to extinguish life—a life that happened to include not only the pain, but four children. And it took even longer for me to feel the pain of the truth of your rejection. When it came, late in my fourth decade, it was like a knife in my heart, slicing down to my gut releasing a kind of nausea—along with a love—I don’t know how to describe. It was the shock of “how can this be?” How can I love and need somebody so much and he doesn’t care about me? How? How? Why?

This kind of pain never really goes away. It just becomes something else, informing what I understand and, I hope, making me more truthfully compassionate.

Here’s some truth that I now understand: I loved you even though you scared me. I believe you loved me even though you couldn’t express or even feel it. I believe you were sick. I believe you did what you felt you had to do and that you made a choice. I love you. I forgive you. I believe that whatever happens has a certain rightness to it that we can’t always understand and I accept there was no mistake. And I still hurt—that is your legacy. It’s not complicated or mysterious. That was simply your choice.


  1. February 7, 2014 1:04 PM EST
    After a couple of days of contemplating this post, I want to do one more elaboration. The motivation to write this blog was the coverage of addiction and the tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The reason I wrote it is that I find compassion that does not acknowledge the addict’s choice and responsibility in what happens to be misguided sympathy, and ultimately not helpful to any addict or the family he's put through hell. Unless an addict starts out completely crazy and disconnected from any shared reality, there is always a moment of choice—even if it’s the choice to ask for help to declare that he feels as if he has no choice. That is a beginning and a step toward life. I have known many people who have been addicted and crazy, and without exception, those who have talked to me have admitted there was a moment of choice: to go over the line or not. The ones who came back from a step over were most honest about this. Some people do not choose life. And that is their right, but they leave a wake of pain, and they are responsible for that.
    - Betsy Robinson

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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