Thursday, June 2, 2011

Letters to Home - My Dad


The pictures of Dad and the house here were taken when I visited my Dad last month. Lt. Colonel Harry Allen D. He still lives on his own, house and yard tidy, still spry, though he turns 91 in a few more days. His companion, the great and powerful Oz, is almost 12. He still drives, (Dad, not Oz, though if he had opposable thumbs, he'd have lifted the SUV by now). It's just to the church and the store, friends take him everywhere else but he's still pretty sharp. He can't do 18 holes on the golf course any more, but still lifts weights three times a week, and shoots a bucket of balls on the range with my big brother, who patiently waits while he drives another home. His secrets to health? Exercise, hard work, integrity, commitment, good ale, and adopting two kids when your friends are becoming grandparents.

He's doing well despite a mild stroke about 5 years ago. I took much of the summer off from work and stayed with him through the initial recovery and he was up and moving about surprisingly fast. He was out of the wheelchair in three weeks. The doctor recommended a cane when he started getting up and around walking. He didn't want to use one as "those are for old people". So I got him a hand carved "hiking stick" with a big bear on the crest of it. That's so not a cane. He will use it when he gets really tired and for that I'm thankful.




I took a friend with me to meet him this last trip, wondering if we'd get the chance again. There's only been a handful of friends I've been proud enough to bring home to meet my Dad and only a couple who had the depth of caring to want to meet him, and I'm glad I did.

I realized it as I watched both of them. The future is what we make of it, each single day, a gift. Coming from being with him, I realize that and I do my best to remain close. Dad doesn't have a computer, a cell phone or a blackberry. So for my Dad, between many phone calls, I write letters.


A letter. Faded with time, a bit frayed around the edges, the words upon it written with clear, flowing script. The stamp carefully placed, the envelope addressed with precision.

Letters from my father to me when I first moved away from home. No one really had computers then for personal use at school, the phone was the most common source of connection for family. But as computers became second nature, my father continued to write me letters, refusing to learn to use a computer. Harriet would read him my blog, the words in there as meaningful for him as if I had written them on paper, read aloud by the woman he loves. (Yes, Harry and Harriet). But he will not take up a keyboard, and will not before he is gone, so others print out some of the posts for him to read now that she is gone, lost from us this time last June. He's probably raised an eyebrow to more than one, but he knows how he raised me, where I come from, and where my heart is.


Simple letters, simple words.

The letters themselves are not full of particularly sage wisdom, or things that might be considered of great depth. They are simply the doings of his day and the memories of his heart. What he planted in the garden, where he went out for lunch after church. A bird he saw on a long drive, a story of that steelhead trout he finally caught under the covered bridge at Grey's River. He wrote to me after he buried someone he loved more than life, words flattened out on paper, like rain, but not lost like rain, streaming out to a valueless torrent of dissolution. His words, though heart rending, uplifted me, a love not lost though life's unravelings. When I held on to him at that grave, while taps played in the distance, his words were engraved on my heart.

They were words that didn't teach, or lecture or portend, but words, that on their reading, mattered. For they filled me with elation that in their capturing, those moments would never be lost, that even when my Dad was gone, there would be stories, of meals, of moments, of caring.


Is that a testament to the power of the word or simply the power of the habit of writing? That which, however mundane, comes to our mind each day. Small, succinct phrases of thought that capture the dots of our lives, connecting us, transcending time or moment. What was in the past is here in my hand now, as if it transcends time and for just a moment we are free of the confines of past tense.

He is here with me now, with his story of that fine day, that could have been a week ago, or 50 years. His words caught and released, a brilliant day, a fighting salmon. A trip to the store, or a small prayer over his breakfast, shared with me here, as if the paper had caught it in time. Our lives are in these moments, gone too quickly, rushing water over our days.


Each of us live in the present, yet we contain our past, and we can not put our future into words until it too, becomes our past. Time is an illusion and death is a transient bend in a long journey that will take its own time. Past, present, future, I'll retain my Dad's stories, his laughter splayed across a small white page, as if part of the paper. As I fold it up and place it carefully in my desk drawer, to perhaps be opened up one day again, a thought comes unbidden. I realize that what is here, be it thought, emotion or the trivial events of our day that we share, for someone, somewhere, will be the most precious of memory.

I take out an envelope and small piece of paper, and on it scribe some other words. Not a blog post, but simply words. You are a good man. I love you. There is no place I am going to mail it to but I feel better for writing it. I put it in the envelope and seal it with a small kiss from my lips, the paper resting for a moment like a wafer on my tongue, confession, redemption.

28 comments:

  1. I wish your dad a happy birthday - in a few days.

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  2. Those of us who read you almost daily, such fine musings like this need to spend a few minutes composing something to your Dad. I think he might get some enjoyment out of the fact that yours is a pretty popular, well read site. Here's mine:

    To Father of "B" -

    I don't remember just how I found your daughters page. It was a link that I ran across on the internet. Sort of like wandering down a back road, between hither and yon, and finding a small little red squiggle on the map.

    Deciding to follow the road, and realizing your in a great little town, well off the beaten path where many have some of the same interests, but not the same background.

    Her posts have brought both tears to my eyes, and laughter from my lungs. Sometimes in the same posting.

    A well turned phrase and thoughtful writing is rare in this day of instant communications. Your daughter has that gift. We all hope that she will stay as a presence on the web with her writings.

    And happy birthday.

    Mac

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  3. The fact this man imparted so much of himself to you, and you reflect it back to him speaks volumes.
    We should all be so honored with such a relationship.
    gfa

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  4. And this post is exactly why I read everything that you share with us across the internet, without fail.

    Your Dad should be very proud of you, and as a Father myself I'm positive that he is.

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  5. Mac tempts me to follow suit, the photos and your words evoking an emotion I rarely give in to...

    Tell him just this - he did one heck of a fine job with you and your family and it's an amazing legacy to the world. Selflessly given, we selfishly devour you and, I think, each consider you our own.

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  6. Beautiful post and I have to agree with Mac~ I bet your dad is very proud of you too.

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  7. Every dad should have such a daughter. He's a lucky man indeed.

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  8. I do remember how I found Home on the Range. A search for an aftermarket trigger for my S&W 22A (I know blind optimism) led me to "The Armed Schoolteacher" which linked to "View from the Porch" and then here. Strange where you can wind up when you do searches. :-)

    I'll add to the sentiment that your Dad must be very proud of you. He's done a great job raising his kids.

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  9. Found a link here on www.corneredcat.com, and haven't missed a day since. Reading this makes me miss my own Dad, lost to us due to cancer two years ago last weekend.

    Cherish the moments...you never know how many remain.

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  10. I'm envious of whomever got to meet your dad. If you learned your gift of gab from him, think of the stories and wisdom to be learned an absorbed.

    I wish him a happy birthday, and many more.

    Josh

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  11. Wishing your dad a Happy Birthday and a Happy Father's Day.

    Brigid,
    You are a lucky lady.

    Cool "hiking stick". My mom refuses to use a "hiking stick" too. She uses a shovel as a cane in the garden, but it isn't really suitable to use it anywhere else. Does anyone know of any company that makes a rough terrain walker with really big wheels or a cane with a web foot for soft ground?

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  12. Brigid:
    Thanks for this. My dad will soon be gone fourty years and I still miss him a bunch. Iam glad you still have your father, spend as much time with him as you can.

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  13. Brigid,

    There is no doubt that your father is intensely proud of you. And, there is no doubt that whomever you brought with to meet him, is a very fortunate person.

    SWModel66

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  14. I envy you the relationship you have with your father.

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  15. Whew!!

    Another fine example of why I visit here on a daily basis.

    Thank You!

    Bob
    III

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  16. Once again, a brilliant post from you, I enjoy them all. I loved the part about the hiking stick with the bear on it! God bless your Dad.

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  17. It is an inspiration to read the thoughts of someone for whom "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" is a way of life, and not just a slogan.
    As always, well done.
    I hope I do half as well with my boys.

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  18. Thank him for his service. A great place for walking/hiking sticks I use is Brazos Walking Sticks. I have one I teach self defense to elders with.It uses twisted hickory and is like iron; will pass TSA, I'm told. I don't fly, because I will not be touched by TSA or I might need to get a new stick when the remove mine from the TSA "apparatchick". Best to all.

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  19. Thanks for sharing Brigid. That was very heartwarming. There are times that I have to bite my tongue with my parents and it is a post like this that lets me realize that my tongue will heal and the patience I show is welllll worth it. Happy Birthday to your dad!.

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  20. OK, now, you're not supposed to make me well up with tears, missy.
    Good post. Good Dad.

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  21. "Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust... You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair."
    D. MacArthur.
    It seems your Dad is 91 years young. v/r Wilko

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  22. You are truly gifted as a storyteller. Opening your latest written piece is, I reckon, like cracking open the door to your kitchen on a cool day, and smelling a wonderful concoction. The anticipation is mouth- watering (in a different way, of course). Please keep 'em comin'

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  23. I thought about you and your Dad yesterday when I went to lay flowers at the cemetery. It's been one year.
    Happy Birthday to Col D.

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  24. Thank you everyone. Dad's birthday is Thursday and I'm sure one of the family will print this out and the comments for him (he reads the occassional post that way).

    It will mean a lot to him. He lost his wife, my stepmom just a few days after his last birthday. I want this one to make him smile, if just for a little bit.

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  25. Your Dad (and You) both seem pretty special to me!

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  26. I love the "walking stick". My Dad just had open heart surgery 4 weeks ago and I've been helping him with recovery. We just had a talk about using those "canes that are for old people" ;)

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  27. I see that I was remiss in my earlier comment and am back to rectify that.

    Happy Birthday to you, Colonel. I hope you have many more.

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  28. Happy Birthday, Brigid's Dad!!!

    I hope you have many more.

    -----

    You can use most any measure
    When you’re speaking of success
    You can measure it in fancy home,
    Expensive car or dress.
    But the measure of your real success
    Is the one you cannot spend.
    It’s the way your kids describe you
    When they’re talking to a friend.

    - by Martin Buxbaum

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I started this blog for family that lives far away. Now that they are gone, it continues on to share those memories.

Comments are welcome,but if you have a fake name, no blog and only comment on the rare occasion to criticize or offer advertising for a business I've never heard of, you go straight to SPAM.