Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Open Letter to Carol Burnett


Below is a copy of a letter I mailed to Carol Burnett about a week ago.  Further below is the response I received from Ms. Burnett on Saturday, February 9th.

Dear Ms. Burnett:

I must admit that I am quite surprised to be writing you at this stage of my life.  I would consider any kind of letter written to you today to be about 40 years late. You see, I idolized you as a boy and never missed The Carol Burnett Show.  Without fail, every Saturday night at 10 o’clock, I sat perched in front of the TV in my pajamas and laughed myself silly.  There was something about you that made me feel warm inside.  I wanted you to be my mother, my best friend, and – yes – even my wife.  I guess even a boy of 8 can dream.

But the reason I am writing this letter to you is not because of what you did for me as a child, but rather what you’ve apparently done for my father today.  You see, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago.  He’s 74 now and has digressed to the point of relying on my mother for constant care.  He still recognizes and knows his family, but everything else in my father’s past seems to have been forgotten.  At night, while sitting in my parents’ dining room, he tells my mother that he needs to go home.  Sometimes, he tells my mother that after dinner, they should go visit her mother.  But he does not remember that my grandmother died in 1987.  We’ll show him photos of places and people and he looks at them with blank stares.  We wonder what he’s thinking, probably as much as he wonders himself.

I was visiting my parents over the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday.  While my parents and I were watching TV in the living room, I channel surfed and came upon the broadcast of your receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center (congratulations, by the way!).  My father, who had been sitting quietly as usual, seemed to spring to life when your face appeared on the television.

“Ha!”, he laughed.  “My God, there’s your girlfriend.”  I sat dumbfounded for a second and could only mutter something like, “yeah, there she is”.  And then my dad looked at me and said, “Do you still love her like you used to?”  And I said, “Yeah, Dad, I still love her.”

My mother and I simply looked at each other in astonishment.  "Like you used to?"  This wonderful, sad man – whose life has completely slipped away from him, robbing him of sacred and treasured memories by the millions – remembered you; not because of what you meant to him, but because of  what you meant to his son.  "Like you used to?"  It was a moment I will never forget.  There’s no explaining how or why he’s been able to cling to this particular memory, but I thank God that he has.  How grateful I am to you.

I know you read your fan mail.  And I hope this eventually finds its way to you because you should know what you’ve given to me and my family.   I guess all I can say is thank you for being you.  And thank you for what you did for me as a child, and what you’ve done for me today.  May God forever bless you.

Now click HERE to read Ms. Burnett's response.

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