Dear Katherine Paterson,

Try harder, not like that, just go do something else! That was what I was constantly hearing from people growing up. I was always feeling like I was disappointing someone one way or another. Feeling like I was not good enough was not unusual. In fact that is what I spent most of my time thinking about.

I’m from a broken home, so my single mother was usually working to provide for me. I would visit my father from time to time but we would see each other less and less as I grew up. I loved him but I felt like I was a disappointment to him as it seemed like he never had enough time for me. I strived to make him proud of me, hoping that as the years passed he would wake up and want to spend everyday with me. In Bridge to Terabithia Jesse and Leslie had the same relationship with their fathers as I did with mine. They both wanted attention from their families and would trade anything to feel wanted by them.

I was in the fifth grade the first time I read your book Bridge to Terabithia. I never thought I would have anything in common with the protagonist, Jesse Aarons, a young country boy, but shocked to learn that I could relate to so much of what he went through. Jesse was the only boy out of his four sisters which is why he tried so hard to connect with his dad. His father was the only male role model in his life so in a way he tried to be like him to satisfy his dad. Jesse’s dad was busy working so he had a habit of using that as an excuse for not being close to Jesse just like my dad was to me. I would find myself reaching for the phone debating whether or not it would be worth calling someone who never had the urge to pick up the phone and make time for you.

Right before I first read Bridge to Terabithia I was starting to lose faith in saving my relationship with my father, so I eventually gave up because it was starting to feel like he could never love me. That is what impresses me most about the characters, that no matter what happened they put family first. After Leslie passed away Jess's parents started to accept him and make him feel wanted when he needed it most.

When I had finished reading this book my dad had become very ill. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong or the condition that he was in, but I was still worried because he is still my father I just did not like to admit it. I went to visit my father in the hospital while he was on life support waiting for a lung transplant. As I saw him lying there I realised that he had loved me he just did not know how to show it and he was proud of me. I realised that my father loved me like Jess’s father loved him, he just did not know how to express that I was not a disappointment. In my mind I forgave him for all the pain and self doubt that he caused me. My dad was working all the time but he was working to keep my happy.

Unlike Jess and his dad, it was too late to fix my relationship with mine. My father never received the lung treatment he needed and passed away about two weeks later. I regret leaving my father with the thought that I didn’t appreciate him, because I do. Before Leslie died she was very distant with her father also, but she never gave up on trying to mend what was broken. I admire her determination and faith that one day everything would be better. Even though sometimes it feels like there is no hope, Bridge to Terabithia taught me that I should never give up and always have faith.

Sincerely,

 

Lauren Hockema

Page last modified: April 8, 2016