I was cleaning out some files today and buried in a long forgotten folder I found a letter. Dated August 1995. It was a letter I had written to my dad. Sent to him almost exactly five years before he died. It was a letter that my sister found when going through his things after his death and sent to me. A letter I had forgotten I had written.
It’s nearly father’s day, June 16th, 2015 as I am writing this. Almost 20 years have passed. I’m thinking that this letter might be an example of the best kind of father’s day gift I ever gave my dad, I know this kind of gift is one of the best I receive. If you still have a chance, you might think about writing and sending a letter such as this to your father (or mother, or grandfather or grandmother or……..). If they are gone, it is still a good exercise. It’s a way of honoring your heritage and yourself, and if they are still alive, their life. Write it, take it to where they are eternally resting. Read it to them. Leave it for them.
The instructions for writing the letter were (1) to write a paragraph thanking your father for the gifts he gave you, (2) a list of the things that you think he might be proud of you for, and (3) a couple of fond memories of your times together.
Here’s the letter I sent to my dad:
I hope all is well with you, we’re doing fine. Enjoyed seeing you all in July. I hope your plans can include a visit to Tucson soon.
During our last program, “Time Out For Men”, I had all the guys write a letter to their dads and challenged those who could, those whose fathers were still alive, to actually send it to them. I wrote one to you as an example and want to send it to you. So here it is:
“Dear Dad, thank you for giving me the gift of caring about others and dedicating one’s life to do so. I remember overhearing you say one night, when you had no idea I was listening that they only important thing in life was to make sure you were a good father to your children. Thank you also for modelling for me the concepts of an honest day’s work, the unstated obligation to go beyond what is expected and required, to do what needs to be done, regardless of who was ‘supposed’ to do it. Thanks for sticking around when mom was at her craziest, and for not leaving us kids. I admire your willingness to continue learning and your openness to life and its possibilities. It is amazing to me that at the age of 72 you were willing to come to a group therapy workshop with me, your first ever therapy experience, and have continued to come once a year since then. I hope always to be that open to learning new things like you model by your behavior.
I think you’d be proud of me for learning how to feel, how to hold and hug my son and daughter, for learning how to talk about the hard things with them, for having a relationship with a woman that feels equal and real. I think you’d be proud to know that I didn’t give up and that I, as you taught and modelled for me, am open and endlessly curious about life.
I’ll never forget the day you spent with Dave and me, hitting us baseballs helping us get ready to try out for the little league teams. I’ll always remember the day we worked together preparing the shop where you went into the motorcycle repair business and your telling my mom “I couldn’t have done it without him”, when you and I knew that all I did was straighten nails in the vise. I have really enjoyed the special moments recently when you talked to me about what it was like for you as a kid growing up.
I know that I am breaking a rule in sending you this letter, because we never talk about such things, but in sending this letter it is a way for me to let you know that I love, appreciate, and am thankful for you.
Take care and love to Betty,
Footnote: My father never acknowledged to me that he ever received this letter. He never mentioned anything about its content. He was just not that kind of guy. I never asked him about it either. I guess I’m not that kind of guy. He did keep it among his treasures. We are both those kinds of guys.