A Late Letter to My Late Father

Father’s Day 2022

Dad and me circa 1993

Last Decem­ber I had an idea to write my dad a let­ter. On occa­sion, I enjoy writ­ing let­ters as gifts. I had mul­ti­ple gift-giv­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, giv­en that my dad was born on Decem­ber 19th and we’d be cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas on the 25th.

I decid­ed I want­ed to share with him how grate­ful I was for the things he taught me, the oppor­tu­ni­ties he pro­vid­ed me, etc. My dad and I didn’t have many long or deep con­ver­sa­tions over the years. And I knew I’d be able to com­mu­ni­cate those things in a writ­ten form bet­ter than I would out loud.

Time flew by, as it often does. I talked myself into not rush­ing to write the let­ter for his birth­day or Christ­mas and to instead give it to him this year on Father’s Day. 

Two months lat­er, Dad had a severe heart attack. After four weeks in the hos­pi­tal, he passed away.

Regret

As I share these words on Father’s Day, I’ve been with­out my dad for 96 days. Nine­ty-six days to relive many mem­o­ries and moments in my mind. Nine­ty-six days to look at pho­tos, lis­ten to music he loved, and share sto­ries with family.

Nine­ty-six days to wish I’d writ­ten him that let­ter last year.

Grief

I want to befriend Grief, but she’s not very relat­able to me. Devel­op­ing that kin­ship is tak­ing time. But Grief reminds me that I love my dad. She reminds me that we would have seen new newest and final Juras­sic Park movie togeth­er this week. She reminds me of his loud laugh, his heart for teach­ing me one more thing dur­ing each phone call, and his con­stant inter­est in how my busi­ness is doing.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Grief seems to do this, more often than not, by throw­ing punch­es to the gut. Some­times suck­er punch­es. And she hits hard.

I’m learn­ing to take a punch, though.

So this Father’s Day, I felt like I had a choice: either get stuck in a cycle of regret or fur­ther devel­op this friend­ship with Grief through writ­ing the letter.

Bet­ter late than nev­er. (I think.)

What fol­lows is a late let­ter to my late father. But it’s also a let­ter for me. For my mom. For my sis­ter. And any­one else who loved my dad.


Dad,

If I’m not mis­tak­en, this is a first. I don’t think I’ve ever writ­ten you a let­ter. I’ve writ­ten some emails, sure. Greet­ing cards, of course. But a let­ter? Not that I recall.

Why the change? Well, I have a few things I want to share, and I hon­est­ly don’t know if I could get through them if I spoke them aloud. I fig­ured a let­ter could serve two pur­pos­es: it could bail me out from need­ing to remem­ber and say these things out loud, and it would also give you the abil­i­ty to revis­it the sen­ti­ments lat­er. (Some­thing I don’t sus­pect you’d tell me about, but that you’d most cer­tain­ly do.)

I’ve stared at a blank screen with a blink­ing cur­sor for a while — try­ing to fig­ure out where to start. A cou­ple of words keep com­ing to mind. So I think I’ll just riff off of those for a minute.

Music

I don’t think I ever slowed down to tell you this, but I’ve always loved your love of music. And Dad, you’re kin­da a strange cat. Play­ing clas­si­cal gui­tar, lis­ten­ing to coun­try and blue­grass, enjoy­ing a cap­pel­la (span­ning clas­sic hymns to Pen­ta­tonix pop tracks), Pavarot­ti at din­ner, etc. Between the influ­ences of you and Mom, my taste in music has end­ed up all over the map. (In the best way possible.)

I loved lis­ten­ing to you prac­tice gui­tar. Par­tic­u­lar­ly once I start­ed play­ing myself. There was a peri­od when I’d hear you mess up over and over and over. I didn’t get it. Why can’t he play that part right at this point?” I even­tu­al­ly under­stood bet­ter as I sought to strength­en my own play­ing. Your com­mit­ment to prac­tice was a les­son you prob­a­bly didn’t know you were teach­ing me from the oth­er room.

And what was all this prac­tice for? To what end? You weren’t prepar­ing for a con­cert. You weren’t being reviewed.

You sim­ply loved music. Cre­at­ing it and con­sum­ing it. The prac­tice was for the soul. 

Lessons with you nev­er panned out. It just didn’t click for either of us. But lessons from you were always around me.

Grat­i­tude

Geez. How do I describe the scale of grat­i­tude I have for you?! It’s not lost on me how much you’ve done for our fam­i­ly over the years. How much you’ve done for me.

I’m grate­ful for the lessons you taught me while I was at home. Grate­ful for the lessons you con­tin­ued to teach as I entered col­lege, and a full-time work life. Grate­ful for you chal­leng­ing me on var­i­ous habits, opin­ions, beliefs, and ideas. Grate­ful for sup­port­ing me in each endeav­or I told you about.

But the most vis­i­ble thing I can’t help but high­light is your nur­tur­ing of my inter­est in cod­ing. You saw a curi­ous 11-yr-old and plant­ed a few seeds of encour­age­ment. You put some tools and oppor­tu­ni­ties in front of me dur­ing mid­dle and high school. And you con­tin­ued to work that ground and water those seeds as they grew beyond just code and into a free­lance income stream.

Now those seeds have grown into a healthy entre­pre­neur­ial gar­den giv­ing me oppor­tun­ties to impact the lives of dozens of employ­ees and their fam­i­lies. The fruit is sweet and it has your name all over it. I couldn’t be more grateful. 

Lega­cy

This is the word I’m most excit­ed to talk about. And the one for which I have the fewest words. (For now.)

The lessons and val­ues you taught me and the oppor­tun­ties you pro­vid­ed me are liv­ing a vibrant life around me as I write this let­ter. I’m con­fi­dent there are also things that I do and share with oth­ers that I don’t real­ize actu­al­ly trace back to you. I’m able to take the seeds you sewed into my life and mul­ti­ply those out to oth­ers. And I want you to know that I will always see your hand in that work.

Your impact will con­tin­ue through Lau­ra, myself, and oth­er lives that you touched and influ­enced. I hope you’re proud. You should be.

Love you, Dad.

Published on June 19, 2022

Tags for this entry: family

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