There is a lot about you I do not know. You were secretive about many aspects of your life. We never talked about your hopes or your dreams. I am not sure what your life entailed before you had a family. And for a long time, Dad, I truly didn’t know if you loved me.
Showing emotion was not your strong point. An immigrant from India and a professor of electrical engineering, you were serious and focused all the time, with only one exception.
You loved watching sitcoms. That was the only time I saw you let loose and enjoy yourself.
You tried to predict the next joke and usually, you got it right.
Then, you would raise your hand and say, “I should have been a scriptwriter.”
Mom would respond, “Well, if you were, we’d have more money.”
Subconsciously, I got it in my head that if I could be on a sitcom, I could make you laugh. If I could make you laugh, I thought you would definitely love me.
In eighth grade, I told you that one day I would be a comedian. I think you thought it was a phase, but you still supported me. During school, I would write jokes and when you picked me up from the bus stop I would test them on you. You would tell me why the joke worked or did not work.
If I could make you laugh, I thought you would definitely love me.
In high school, we started to fight a lot. I resented you for not allowing me to go to the school my friends attended, simply because you said you wanted me to go closer to our house.
I was angry at you and became isolated and anti-social, often staying in my room reading books about standup comedy. However, even though I was upset and rebellious, you still took me to comedy shows and encouraged me. During my freshman year of college, we went to see a local Indian comedian and you suggested I ask him questions about how to get my career started.
However, even though you encouraged my interest in comedy when I graduated from college and pursued it, it became another point of contention in our relationship. I lost jobs. I quit jobs. You were frustrated that I wasn’t making a steady income. You wanted me to be financially stable but I wanted to do whatever it took to live my dream.
After a breakup with a girlfriend, I became unhappy and depressed. I never told you this Dad, but I had a drinking problem. After my third DUI, I stopped abusing alcohol and began to see a therapist. That’s when I began to appreciate you more. She helped me realize that even though you didn’t show a lot of emotion or affection, you always tried to be a good dad. You showed up to every basketball game. Every band recital, you were there. And even though you were irked by the financial instability of my career, you found great joy in all the access I had to celebrities.
My therapist suggested I write you a letter apologizing for the past and showing gratitude for all the effort you put into being my father. Just as the letter arrived, so did the news. That same week you were diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Doctors told us you had one year to live.
When I came home to see you, we would sit on the couch and watch comedies together. And while our relationship was improving, you remained worried about my future.
Toward the end of your life, I came home to help you move. The TV got stuck on a marathon of The Hughleys, starring comedian D.L. Hughley. I couldn’t change the channel, so I watched all night long. The very next night I was at a restaurant in Dallas and there he was, D.L. Hughley. I didn’t expect to see him in Dallas. If the TV hadn’t gotten stuck on him the night before, I probably wouldn’t have even recognized him.
I approached him and he invited me to his improv show the next night. Exhausted and drained from taking care of you, I almost didn’t go because it was an hour from your house. But something inside of me pushed me. That night, D.L. put me on stage. I did well and he invited me back the next day. That was the day the doctor told us that the end was near for you.
I went to the show to meet D.L. late that night. He asked how you were doing and I told him you were not doing well.
He told me to call him when I returned to Los Angeles.
He said, “When you get back to Los Angeles, I will put you to work.”
I told you what D.L. said and two days later you passed away.
It’s almost like you were holding on to make sure I was OK, to make sure I could take care of myself.
I want you to know D.L. kept his promise and he has kept me consistently working as a comedian and writer since you died nearly two years ago. Last year, I got my first television writing job, working on a Netflix show and this year I got my first producer credit, working on D.L.’s talk show.
While I am not wealthy, you would be happy to know I have had enough money to live off of my work in comedy as opposed to supplementing my income with a day job.
Dad, I am a working comedian just like I planned and I have come to realize you were my greatest influence.
But I want you to know that I no longer do comedy because I don’t know if you love me, I am passionate about comedy because it is now my way of saying, I love you, too.
About the author:
Jay Mandyam is a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer. He is a producer on The D.L. Hughley Show and appeared on Modern Family.
About the sponsor and the charity:
The David Lynch Foundation promotes Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. It also provides opportunities for children who want to learn to meditate. HairstyleGlam App is donating $50 to The David Lynch Foundation in honor of the first 50 shares of Jay’s letter.
The Unsealed will match the donation if we get 100 new subscribers and 100 new Facebook followers by 11/9/19.
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Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.