Dear Dad

An Open Letter to My Father (1957-2006), on Father’s Day. What I Would Say if You Were Here.

It’s been some time since I was with you on Father’s Day. I still think of you–every year. We get your favorite cherry pie to celebrate. Though, I’m not sure how many people in the family actually like it…we do it anyway.

Dad, did you know that I sometimes hear other people say your name? Well, they say “dad” in reference to their own fathers, but I watch their mouths as they form what was also your name. They get to say it so often. Sometimes I just say your name softly to myself again and again. I try to make up for the number of times I might have said it.

When I think of you, there’s usually some whistling or cheerful singing going on while a project is being finished. You have paint-stained hands and saw-dust-hair from the latest do-it-yourself project.

When I think of you, it’s a jovial comment with an upwards inflection of excitement at the end.  It’s tender eyes while clasping the hand of someone suffering. There are always crinkles on the sides of those eyes, even in rest. Crinkles from held-in laughter at things that should probably not be laughed at by someone of your station. But, you loved people. So, when mess-ups or “naughty” little boy things occurred, I would always look for that subtle crinkle.

I never pass a church building that doesn’t remind me of you. I remember as a kid playing hide and seek in the halls at church and my friends would get scared if someone turned out the lights. Because of you, I never felt afraid. It always seemed that somewhere at the end of that hallway, where the light pours in through white curtains, you would be. Even now, walking through those hallways alone, I could swear if I reached the end fast enough I could glimpse you.

Yours is the voice in my head that doesn’t let me stop. When I think we have done enough or our “duty” has been fulfilled, it’s you that comes to mind. I must not withhold an ounce; I can never leave first. I can never watch work being done without having my hands in it, because even now I know yours would be there. It all must be given because I know, when I walk out, you’re watching. You gave it all, expended all of your energy, because “that’s how we do it.” The reality is, even still, I am never really the last one to leave. I think somewhere, always a few steps behind, making sure it’s all completed, you are still finishing up after me. You are always there. The work is never done, and you don’t mind. You love the work, because you love whose it is.

Thank you, Dad, for all you taught me. Do you know that I miss you? I think of you daily, but on this day in particular, I want you to know,

I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.