Septemus 77

last08

Dear Sept,

Tomorrow I’ll give you the box that contains all the letters I’ve written, including this one. I’ve been reading through them. Bittersweet.

Yesterday was your last day of school, and Monday morning, we’ll head to the agency office in Willow Springs to register you. You’ll be a “registered alien,” with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that entails. Our involvement in the program will be over. Believe me, I’ve got Geoffrey’s number on speed-dial, as well as the offices of our senator and local representatives, just in case we need them. I’m none-too-happy about this “registering” bit.

It felt odd looking at the first letter I wrote. I remember sitting at the kitchen table while you were sleeping, and I wanted to explain so much. I wanted to form some sort of connection between you and me, and I didn’t know how to go about it. All I could think of was to write, so that you wouldn’t have questions when you grew up.

I was such a solitary, lonely guy.

sept114

I didn’t have anybody. But then, neither did you. You were so tiny, I could have fit you in a tea-cup.

sept112

It took us a while to have each other.

There were days when I wondered if I’d ever understand you–if you’d ever understand me. Little did I know you understood me from the get-go!

Ah, this house is going to feel empty when you eventually move out on your own, son. I know that day is coming soon.

last07

You used to wake so angry! Do you remember that? That crooked frown of yours, those gangster eyes.

sept113

I never really considered you to be a child. You were never like Octy, speaking baby talk, seeking comfort and cuddles.

last06

You were speaking in complete sentences, in Vingihoplo and our shared tongue, and you had an opinion on everything.

Sometimes, when I look at you now, I see that same little man you used to be.

last05

You’ve got the same grin.

sept121

But then you start talking, explaining some esoteric insight you’ve gained, and I am overcome with your eloquence. You’re graceful, son, in gesture, word, and action.

last04

You used to feel so lonely.

I was helpless. I knew you were grieving for Situ, though I didn’t know her name then, nor even who she was nor her role in caring for you. I thought she was your mom.

You missed your pagotogo.

Even as a tiny thing, you’d taken it on yourself to be responsible for them. You wouldn’t rest, or let me rest, until we’d found them.

sept201

I read the letter where I wrote, “You won’t have to grow up a solitary kid, like I did, Sept. Not if I can help it.”

I guess you didn’t grow up solitary. These past few weeks, with all your gotogo visiting, we have been smack in the middle of family. You’ve never been happier.

last03

There was one night–you went out and looked at the stars. I think that might have been one of the first times I heard you singing to them. You slept out on the porch that night, Sept.

That was the first time it really sunk in to me how far you’d traveled to get here.

sept367

I remember the day I found the bizoopagoto forum. Did you know that Elliot, Emmanuel’s mom, was my first forum friend?

It was your first day of school. I had to bite my tongue not to blurt out the news. But after you told me all about your teacher, Ms. Care-a-lot Sweets, I told you we’d found them.

That was the biggest best smile I’d ever seen.

sept610

Since then, your smiles have become a daily thing.

That was all you’d been waiting for, wasn’t it?

last02

Son, do you remember all the hours we danced?

We danced while we waited to find your kin.

We danced when we didn’t know what else to do.

Many times, we simply danced to dance.

sept211

Septemus, my son, you’ve taught me to dance through life.

We dance with Octy now.

Soon your dance will lead you away, out into the world, and Octy and I will dance together, waiting on your return.

It’ll be different, but you’ll always be my son.

last01

Thank you for giving me family, for teaching me love, and for showing me something better to aspire to be.

Forever,

Your pops

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Septemus 47

Septeen906

Dear Sept,

You’re back from visiting your sister! I tried not to worry. I didn’t succeed. I worried.

But you came back safe.  You smelled like garlic, but you were safe.

Not every community is as friendly towards extra-terrestrials as ours is. I had no idea what you’d encounter out there. But you seemed thrilled with everything you found.

“Panda’s so adorable,” you said. “So smart, too!”

Septeen902

I had to ask about the garlic.

“It was Harmony’s doing,” you said. “Do you realize that she’s allergic to the stuff? She broke out in blisters. But she got it to keep me safe when I was travelling back home. And to keep us safe here, too.”

We’ve hung the wreath on the front porch and stored the garlands in the spice drawer. Our home smells like the cellar of an Italian deli now.

“She’s got that quality,” you said.

“What quality, son?”

“That same quality you have. The same as our bizaabgotojo. Where you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. What’s that quality called, Pops?”

Septeen903

“That’s called being a parent,” I said.

“It’s the luckiest thing,” you answered. “The luckiest thing in the universe is to have a parent.”

You’re sleeping outside tonight. You said you wanted to be out there where you could feel connected to everybody. You’re such a big kid now, nearly a man, but when I checked on you , curled up on the park bench, sleeping out under the stars so you could hook into the dreams of your pagotogo, you looked like that same little kid who was entrusted to me, over a decade ago.

Septeen905

I often wonder what’s in store for you, for your future. Lucas has been coming by often, and I’ve seen the way the two of you look at each other, and the way you carefully avoid looking at each other.

I won’t ask if there’s something going on between you. It will become clear soon enough, and I’m not one who feels comfortable talking about these types of things.

Septeen901

You’re as moody as always. Sometimes, you’ll chuckle aloud while you’re writing, as if life is the greatest thing.

Septeen910

Then an hour later, I might find you looking forlorn.

Sometimes, I ask.

“There’s a lot that’s not right in the world. And a lot that’s not right in other worlds, too,” you said. “What’s the purpose of the not-rightness? Why can’t everybody just be kind?”

Septeen904

I asked if you’d read any Buddhist texts during your forays through the school and town libraries.

You hadn’t yet. I think maybe you’re ready. I know I’ve tried to protect you from suffering and from learning about hardship, sorrow, and danger while you were growing up. And I know, too, that it’s foolish to think that someone, even a parent, can protect a growing child from that.

That’s all part of life. Sure, a parent is someone who puts the child’s needs first. A parent is someone who will do anything–make any kind of sacrifice, even his own life–for the child. A parent is someone who will do everything to protect the child.

But no parent, not even Siddhartha’s parent, can protect against suffering, illness, danger, and death. Doing so would be to try to pull the child out of life–and even if we want to do so out of our misguided love, there is no way we can pull that off.

Son, you’re going out in the world now.  It won’t be long before you come back with all sorts of tales and all sorts of questions.

I think maybe I’ll get a few of my own Buddhist paperbacks from my college days out of storage and put them on the shelf. I think you might be ready for them.

Septeen907

We’re getting to the time where your questions are the sort I can’t answer anymore.

Love you, son,

Your Pops

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Septemus 45

septteen503

Dear Sept,

I’m grateful we have a project to work on together.

You’re getting older and more independent. You’re even heading out alone to visit some of your siblings: Panda in Forgotten Hollow and Manny in Oasis Springs.

When we talked about it, and I volunteered to go with you, I’ve got to admit, if I’m being perfectly honest, that I hoped you’d say you wanted me to come along.

I wonder if you knew I felt this way. Probably. You looked a little uncomfortable when you said that it was something you felt you had to do alone.

septteen408

I understand. Or at least I imagine that I do. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to imagine what it must be like to be telepathic. It means what I feel, imagine, and think is right there for you to feel, imagine, think.

It seems kind of noisy, to me.

septteen502

So when you go to see your siblings–especially for the first time–I can imagine you might need to reduce some of that noise. Maybe you don’t want to be tracking my thoughts and feelings while you’re tuning in to your siblings initially.

I mean, I know that you’re always connected with your siblings. But it’s different when you’re in physical proximity, isn’t it?

That’s how I imagine it, at least.

At any rate, you told me thanks. That you appreciated it.

septteen405

You’ve grown into a young man, son.

I know I have to let you go. A few years, and you’ll finish high school. Then what?

septteen409

College? Career?

You are free to do what you want. We don’t have much money, but then neither did Nonny and Poppy when I went to university and grad school. We’ll qualify for grants. You’ll get scholarships. Student loans won’t kill a person, though I’ve got to admit I’ll be relieved when mine are finally paid off five years from now.

You’ve developed good habits. I’m proud that you’ve taken it upon yourself to clean up the park.

septteen707

I even find you out there at night, mopping up the spilled paint and graffiti.

septteen313

You’ve got a good work ethic, too, son. Not a day has passed when you don’t do your homework.

septteen811

I’ll tell you one thing: We couldn’t build this rocket without you.

septteen513

Of course, if it weren’t for you, we probably wouldn’t have a cause to build it, since it was your people who gave it to us, after all.

I’ve asked you many times what you think it’s for. You reply is always the same: “Just in case.”

But “just in case” of what, I don’t even want to imagine. I shudder to think of any situation where a rocket might play a part in the contingency plan.

septteen512

I try to not even think about there being a rocket in our backyard. A rocket. In our backyard.

It doesn’t phase you, though. You’re reaching the age of independence, and there’s a rocket in our backyard, and you look as if the entire universe were your turf.

septteen514

And I am trying not to worry.

Maybe if I give you enough independence, you’ll have no reason to ever leave, and you’ll stay.

Do you think?

You’ll always be my boy.

–Your pops

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Septemus 43

FiLetter101

Dear son,

If I had known this letter would cause so much grief between us, I would have left it unopened, marked it “Return to Sender,” and placed it right back in the mailbox.

First, it was odd that Geoffrey would write, rather than drop by for a conversation.

Poppy always said if a friend writes you, it’s either to deliver bad news or break a deal, or both.

“Salutations, Mr. Sevens.” 

He addressed me by last name.

Really, that’s all I needed to know. I should have returned the letter right then.

Instead, I showed it to you.

Septeen1008

“It does seem a little odd,” you said. We read it together.

Salutations, Mr. Sevens.

I have an urgent matter I need your help with. Or more correctly, your son’s help.

Let’s get straight to the point: Foundling number 42, a little girl of two, is missing. And it’s completely my fault. I can’t tell you all of the details, but as the result of a fatal computer error I delivered her to a wrong address and an entirely wrong country. Because of the isolated city-state’s strict border control I can’t apply for a new visa before three months have expired without risking the exposure of the project. Their officials are difficult to work with.

I asked you where you thought she might be. You didn’t say much. I continued reading it aloud.

Septeen911

The only bit of luck I have is that the right participant never got to the point where he found out about the child. I’ve canceled his meeting.

I left the girl at the hands of a polite young man who didn’t look shocked at all to see a Sixan at his doorstep. He signed all the papers without batting an eye, but back at the office it turned out there is no Hades Rcane in any country’s registers.

The phone number is fake, I lost the address and it’s likely that he doesn’t even live in the same place anymore. I have no idea what kind of a criminal I’ve gifted 42… I can’t bear to think of what could have happened to her.

This is where Septemus comes in. I want him to attempt contacting 42. Just the confirmation that she still lives would be enough for now.

“Would you be able to do this?” I asked.

You’d pulled out your journal and had begun writing.

Septeen908

“Keep reading,” you said. “I’m listening.”

I read on:

As the matter is highly confidential and could, if released to the public, endanger the entire program, I’ve tried to keep this information from spreading even within the Agency.  Please treat this seriously.

I am deeply sorry to burden you and Septemus with this, but there is no one else I coud turn to right now. Should you manage to find her, no words could express my gratitude.

Geoffrey Landgraab 
Head of the Family and Children Services, Program H9110

“It doesn’t sound good,” I said when I’d finished.

Septeen909

You wrote a few more lines, then closed your journal.

“First off,” you replied, “Don’t worry. But second, we’ve got to figure out what to tell Geoffrey.”

“I don’t even know if I want you involved, son,” I said. Here’s where the first conflict enters in. You say you’re already involved, and that if one of your pagotogo is in trouble, you’re obliged to help.

My obligation is to keep you safe. That’s first for me.

If this child is with a criminal, if she’s in the city-state I think she’s in, then I don’t want you involved. Period.

FiLetter104

You said you were already involved. But that didn’t matter: what mattered was what we told Geoffrey.

You reminded me of my obligation to Geoffrey. Frankly, I don’t have an obligation to him, or at least, not to him as the head of Family and Children Services. My obligations to him are the obligations of a friend, but if he writes to me in official capacity, as the head of a program, I have no obligation. I’m a participant in H9110, but that doesn’t oblige me to help out the head of the program. Besides, Geoffrey never disclosed to me in our conversations that he was in charge of the day-to-day operations of H9110. He said he was influential with policy, but that’s a lot different than getting involved with the placement of children. As far as I can tell, the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy and that makes me not trust it.

You reminded me of my obligation, as a father of a bizoopagoto, to help all other bizoopagotogo.

“Is she bizoo?” I asked.

“I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to say,” you replied. You closed your eyes and listened.

FiLetter103

You know things. I asked you, right then, point blank, if you were in touch with her. I can tell that you are and that you were singing to her and listening to her right then. I’ve come to recognize that look.

“Here’s the thing,” you said at last. “What’s most important? Love is most important. For all of us, with what we’ve been through, if we love and are loved back, that will be enough. With that, we can get through anything. Danger. Hardship. You name it. But if you take that away, we won’t make it. We’d crumble.”

“Is she loved then?” I asked.

“I haven’t decided what I’m telling yet,” you said.

I took a break and made a batch of cookies.

You started singing:

“I like pancakes, too.
E inna-inna O.
O inna-inna E.

“Now you’ve got two
I’ve got one who cares for me.

“Apples in the tree
O inna-inna E.
E inna-inna O.”

FiLetter102

We left the topic and went about our evening.

We both needed time to think.

The next day, when we were working on the rocket, seemed to me like a good time to bring it up again. Why didn’t you want to talk about it then? I know you said you wanted us to concentrate on what we were doing, and I know that’s a good idea. But I thought that, with the rocket between us, it might have been easier to talk about difficult things.

septteen511

The problem with this muddle is that it doesn’t seem to be getting better as time passes.

“Let’s just talk,” I said. “Let’s just be straight between the two of us, and then we can take it from there. We can decide together.”

“It’s not easy,” you said. “What if I tell you something, and then you feel you’ve got to report it back, and then it all gets messed up from there? It would be my fault.”

septteen401

It took me a long time to figure out what was bothering you. It seemed so muddled to me. What it came down to was that you were worried I would feel compelled to report back to Geoffrey what I found out–if, hypothetically, it turned out the that child was in danger.

I tried to assure you that I would respect your wishes. That I would trust you.

But I realized that you’re right. You know me too well. While it’s true that I don’t have an obligation to Geoffrey, I do feel obliged to do what’s right. And if the child’s well-being is jeopardized, I would feel obliged to let Geoffrey know so he could do something.

You are right. That’s what I’d do.

septteen402

You told me you’d reached your decision, too.

I know you feel that emotional bonds–that healthy attachment–is the foremost thing of value. “Love is the most important,” you’ve been telling me.

Love is important, son. Of course it is. But so is safety of life and limb. So is having enough to eat and a warm roof over one’s head. Being secure is also important to a little one.

You tell me there’s no security like being loved. That’s what keeps the spirit strong.

“For a bizoo, especially,” you said, “strength in spirit is everything.”

septteen403

So you’ve made your decision not to tell me what you know. You won’t even admit that you’re in contact with her. You won’t let me know if she’s safe or in danger.

All you say is that you’re protecting what is most important.

You’re asking me to trust that you’re doing what you feel is right.

septteen404

I guess that’s a brave thing to do, son, and a sign that you’re growing up. Knowing that what I feel is right and what you feel is right might not align, you are sticking to your right. That’s the best thing a good man can do. And by keeping what you know to yourself, you feel you’re protecting me from having to choose between my ethics and my trust in you.

But son, that’s a heavy burden for you to carry. I wish you could trust in what I think is right and be satisfied with leaning on your father.

But you’re getting too old to let anyone else make your decisions now, aren’t you?

Know this, son: Even when we don’t see eye-to-eye, I know you always do what is true for you.

With respect,

Your pops

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Author’s Notes: Geoffrey’s letter was written by @For_Eorzea/Summonerd. Foundling number 42 is Fi, and her story can be found at SMNerd Writes.

Also: just made a minor edit on Sept. 24 to account for a consistency lapse regarding Sebastion’s knowledge of the extent of Geoffrey’s involvement with the agency. Thanks much for pointing this out, @For_Eorzea!

I really appreciate and value editorial help from readers: Please don’t hesitate to point out typos, mistakes with Vingihoplo, missing possessive apostrophes (What? No!), or errors in consistency! I value every opportunity to correct the text! 🙂

Septemus 24

sept2403

Dear Sept,

We had another visit from Geoffrey, checking in to see how you’re doing.

I was happy to report that you are doing great.

I’m having fun watching you explore your world. At this stage, you’re beginning to think about future careers. I guess going to school has you thinking that way, all those questions about what you want to do “when you grow up.”

First, I’m telling you never to grow up. Just grow. Keep your openness and passion for exploration all your life.

I trust you will. It seems to be your nature.

Most of your playtime, these days, centers around trying on different careers.

Sometimes, you play doctor. I find the doll a little creepy, personally, with those weird, staring eyes, but you seem to love your little patient, and you tend to him with gentle care.

sept2603

Then you put away the doctor set, and you tell me you’re off to explore space.

sept2601

But first you have to build the rocket.

sept2602

It’s taking us a while to get this rocket finished. I’ve been reading the instructions. Most of it, we can’t make heads-or-tails out of.

“If I just look, I can figure it out,” you told me, holding up the measuring stick against a coil.

I took a shot at it after you headed in to do your homework.

sept2401

We haven’t finished it yet, but we’re persistent. I guess having a project that takes more than a day–or maybe even more than a week–to finish develops patience. Not a bad quality to have.

When our brains are tired from looking at schemata, we still find that playing dolls is the most relaxing.

“I think really, of all of the choices there might be, this is it,” you told me.

sept2402

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Choices for what?”

“What I do when I grow up,” you said.

“You want to play with dolls?”

You laughed. “No, silly!” you said. “Be a dad!”

Aw, son. That means that when I grow up, I get to be a granddad. Good choice.

Your pops,

Sebastion

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