Recently discovered in a dark corner of my basement was a nondescript cardboard box. Inside was a stack of papers including my marriage license and birth certificate, old files and paperwork, together with early photographs of the children when they were very young. Deep down, flat and pressed nearly against the right side of the coagulated box of plain paper brown was a long ago forgotten letter saved for many, many years. A treasured gift rediscovered that I’ll pass down to my children who will hopefully pass it down to their own. Part of my legacy was folded into a wrinkled envelope of sixty-three years.
Written in a pen of turquoise ink on five pages of thick, yellowed paper was a letter scrawled from my father to his own. Moving to the windowed stairwell, I held it in my shaking hands where I could read it in better light. Staring at my father’s writing, his cursive, capital D’s curled to the left while the bottom of the letters swirled to the right. ABC’s from his heart as he bared his soul to my paternal grandfather, the man most important to him in all of his world.
Although my grandfather was a warm and loving man, he rarely expressed any emotion to his son, which made reading this letter particularly poignant. Not once was the word, “Love” ever written, yet anyone can read between the lines. I nearly cried the whole way through. My dad was in the United States Air Force and had recently learned his father had taken ill after losing his beloved brother (my father’s uncle). I’m re-writing my father’s letter word for word, exactly as he wrote it at the age of 19. A boy’s hand penning the words of a young man…..
I’m not much for soft words Dad, but I think it’s about time I told you what a great guy you really are. Ever since you took me to that fair or carnival or what ever it was; all I can remember about it is, that there were some great big trucks. I guess they looked about half as big as the world at the time. On the way back you bought me my first candy bar. And when I used to meet you coming down the street from work and you’d let me steer. Oh, yes, and when we went swimming; you’d hold me up so I could kick my feet.
When I grew up a little, we use to play ball or catch together. Remember when we use to go hunting; when that Pheasant went up, he came down soon, I hardly ever saw you miss.
Well Dad, ever since I was old enough to know anything at all, I knew you were a very wonderful Dad and I was a very lucky kid for having you for my Pop. You are the most, to say the least.
Remember all the trouble I used to get into; stealing fruit, fighting, and smoking, when I was just a kid. Maybe it is a good thing I smoked then, and I don’t have to smoke now, and I don’t.
How about that gate night, that all of us guys broke all those windows and got caught and went to court too. Boy, that was the limit. How did you ever put up with it all anyway?
Well, I have grown up a lot, and this Christmas I’ll be twenty one, and I’m supposed to be a man. Right now I think I’ll be a man by Christmas. I’m not afraid of anything or anybody.
Having wonderful parents like you and Mom are, to have raised me, I know I’ve made it. Mom certainly is a wonderful woman and Mother too. You sure picked the right woman when you married her. You two certainly are the best parents a guy could ask for.
Well Dad, how have you been feeling lately? I hear, not too good, huh. Well, you should go see the doctor right away. You know, I only have one Dad like you. I know Uncle Charlie’s death must have hit you pretty hard. He sure was a great guy, wasn’t he? But let’s not let it get the best of us Pops. Those things happen, but when they do, we just have to remember the pleasant things about them. We’re tough enough, we can take it, we have to, that’s all.
Well Dad, I made it home for your birthday when you were sixty one, and I’m trying to make it home for mine and I’ll be twenty one. Gosh I’ll be old enough to vote now, and buy beer too. When I come home, we’ll go down town and I’ll buy you one, ok?
Well Dad, I guess I’ve rattled on long enough. Take good care of yourself Pops and Mom too. Hope to see you in one short month.
*With LOVE to you and yours, I wish you a Happy Father’s Day!