An Open Letter to Ryan O'Neal

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Just when I thought Joe Jackson (Michael's "father") might be my poster boy for reprehensible parenting, you've come along to challenge him for the honor. According to media reports, you tried to pick up your own daughter Tatum at Farrah Fawcett's funeral, with the one-two punch, "You have a drink? You have a car?"

You are quoted as telling Vanity Fair contributing editor Leslie Bennetts, "I'm a hopeless father. I don't know why. I don't think I was supposed to be a father. Just look around at my work-they're either in jail or they should be." You go on to say that you aren't in touch with your children any longer and have "never been happier."

Here's a psychological newsflash_ Not recognizing your own daughter is the kind of thing that gets etched on your tombstone, under the heading SCUMBAG. Trying to pick her up at Farrah's funeral-or any woman's-goes right underneath that entry. And stating publicly that you're happier not seeing or speaking to your own kids makes it a Trifecta. You're gonna keep some guy who etches letters in granite very busy.

No wonder Tatum was hooked on heroin and Redmond is in jail for a drug offense. You obviously have a really bad habit of inflicting pain on people, and they turn to one or another intoxicant to try to relieve it. I mean, it's one thing to try picking up your adult daughter, it's another to do whatever you did to her as a little girl. Exactly what was that, Ryan?

I know, you think I'm being a little hard on you, but I'm not.

See, when I use the term "scumbag," I mean it in the clinical sense, and with no hatred toward you, whatsoever. I mean that something happened to you in your own personal development that led you to think so little of yourself and so little of others that you can't see the beauty it is to bring a new life into this world and be able to nourish it. You must question your own self-worth so deeply that now the only thing you can pay attention to is how to pump yourself up narcissistically and avoid the deeper questions you have about whether you're worth anything at all-to yourself or anyone else.

You tell Ms. Bennetts that you'd "take back" your kids-as in, return them to their Maker; as in, kill them off. Well, you came close, setting them up for their drug abuse. But here's the thing: The real ambivalence you have at core isn't about them at all. It's about you and whether you deserve to exist. I don't believe you could have been well-loved and turn out unable to love. Your own family somehow made you wonder whether you deserved to be born, whether you were really a keeper. How?

You did deserve to live. You were once an innocent child, full of human potential and the capacity to love yourself and others endlessly. You were cheated of that potential, and I am sorry that happened to you. Now, facing the particular traumas you lived through and feeling all the pain of having lived through them is the only way back to being fully human.

Life is an amazing journey and, even with you facing leukemia, the end isn't written until a man's last acts and final words. You can still reclaim your humanity and capacity to love and offer it to the children you brought into this world. And then very different words might mark your resting place and very different things may be said of you.

I have seen people resurrected by embracing the truth at 18, and at 48, and at 78. It is never, ever too late.