Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dear Dad

Happy Father's Day!  That's right, the day we celebrate our paternal line or those who were paternal toward us approaches soon.

I didn't get you a new grill or some snappy new power tool.  Didn't get you a DVD or aftershave.  I think we've past that point. 

I have so, so much to thank you for today, namely:
  • for surviving the Great Depression.
  • for falling in love with my mother.  (Good one, Dad.)
  • for putting me on a racehorse at three-years old and igniting my passion for horses.  (As you might remember, Mom didn't take that too well.)
  • for the Friday fish and chip lunch dates on your days off from work.
  • for driving down to Ft. Jackson, SC from Rhode Island in a Volkswagen Beetle when you found out I'd injured my knee in the Army.  (That had to hurt your six-foot frame.)
  • for giving me a love of nature.
  • for challenging me every blessed day.  (OK, I fought you tooth and nail on THAT one.)
  • for showing me your quiet determination.  
  • for instilling in me the true beauty of living an authentic life, not a flimsy one built from pretension.
  • for teaching me to seek and celebrate peace.
There have been some bad times as well.  Times I never understood, but my baby pictures showed the love you had for me in your eyes.  For a long time I didn't know that man.  I do now.  All the while, I never knew how desperately you tried to shield me from all you endured, but I searched anyway. 

I found breadcrumbs from the past; clues left by our dearly departed.  Poverty, loss, and systems too blind to see the real story.  Yet, you worked so hard to keep your family fed.  The chicken story still makes me laugh, but it also teaches me the stark reality of hunger.  You did good, Dad.  You gave it your all.

In these recent months I've seen you through a different lens. Early on, images rose of a young strapping soldier full of bravado, ready for a fight. Next, as a baby who quietly drifts back to sleep after eating. Words can't describe how those images have touched my heart.

When you asked me if I meant it when I said I'd care for you and Mom at home, I have to admit a heaping measure of apprehension.  But now I can honestly say to do so has been heaven sent.   Had I not accepted the challenge, I would have missed out on your stories.  They would have been lost on strangers who didn't understand their meaning.  So, while I gifted you by caring for you, I received a far richer gift in return.

We don't know how much time we have left together as a family.  I pray each day for a little longer.  I pray that you be pain-free, and, most of all, I pray you finally get the peace you fought for and so rightfully deserve.  These prayers conflict with each other.  Selfishly, it hurts so much to know we'll have to say goodbye.  That's something I'm just not ready to do.  Not yet.

I'm sitting next to you in your hospital bed in our living room as I write this entry. You might ask, "Why would a daughter write an open letter to her father on the Internet?" My reply, "I want the world to know what a gift you are to me and my mother. Not gifts that wear out in two or three years, but an eternal gift living our hearts."

I love you, Dad.

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