A Letter To My Father

Mom woke me.  Darkness greeted me from the other side of the window.  The moon clearly visible. After midnight but before sunrise. Oddly quiet outside. No birds, no owls, no crickets, only silence interrupted by the sound of the golden-colored dodge swinger ripping down the concrete driveway.

A brief ride through the isolated and dark woods took me to aunt Anne’s house. “You have to stay here,” I was told.  Mom had to get to the hospital. That’s all that was said. I slowly entered my cousin’s room and climbed into the bottom bunk bed.  He was asleep unaware of my arrival. I was naïvely unaware of what tomorrow would bring and quickly coasted off into a deep sleep.

The sun doesn’t wake me. The squeak from the bedroom door wakes me. Only her head pops in. “Your dad died last night.” Anne quietly eases back and slowly closes the bedroom door. I don’t know where mother is. I have not seen or heard from her.

It’s a school day. Along with my cousin, I get up and dress for a regular day of high school. I cannot recall other options. No tears but an abundance of numbness. I am numb all over. Can’t really feel anything. In school, I robotically move from class to class never telling anyone that I would never see daddy again. My family assumed I was okay, but I was not.

Nearly 31 years has passed since you closed your eyes for good, but now, my heart feels like it were yesterday. Today is Father’s Day. Yesterday, unexpectedly I passed the cemetary where you are resting. I also passed the abandoned and dilapidated factory where you once worked endless hours so that you could provide for our family. I pointed out the factory to your grandson and told him about how hard you worked.  I even recall once going in the uncomfortable overheated and noisy factory to bring a fresh orange order from a band fund-raiser.  I wondered in amazement how you withstood the heat and extreme sound grinding from the machinery.

Knowing that today is Father’s Day and that I cannot sit on your lap and rub your sleek silver hair like I enjoyed just as much as you did, compelled me to write this letter to you.

Thank you for being a wonderful dad and for taking such good care of our family. Because of you I had a fine example of what a good father does for his family.  At well over 60 years old, you worked six-day work weeks, 10 hour work days, and walked miles in knee-deep snow just to provide for your family.  Amazing!

Oh how I wish you could see the woman I have become today! I know you would be proud. Sadly I missed you at all the major mild stones; the Father’s waltz in the cotillion, my high school graduation, the wedding, my college graduation, and the birth of your first grand-daughter. However, in my heart I believe you were with me in spirit. You should know that mother misses you an awful lot. She doesn’t say it, but she does.

Today I just wanted and desperately needed to say Happy Father’s Day! I LOVE you daddy! I still miss you.

RIP Axel.

Fathers…thank you for all that you do

Happy Father’s Day!

If my father were alive to celebrate this Father’s Day, he would be 100 years old. “Daddy” is what I called him.

Me & daddy. I think I was around 15 yrs. old.

Axel was 20 years senior my mother. The stories about daddy’s young years still resonate within me. “Your daddy was something else!” “Axel did this, he did that…..” All events that took place before I was born.

Typically, my perception of fatherhood developed at home, where I watched everything daddy did. I listened to everything that he said, as well as, observing his interactions with my mother.

I had daddy for 17 years; he died of colon cancer just before Thanksgiving my senior year of high school. Some would say 17 long years. I say 17 short years. It is all a matter of perspective. The years are short for me because I did not have the opportunity to know him as an adult. I only knew him as a child. Adult relationships differ with parents.  When children become adults, some parents are able to open up giving way to relationship with greater depth and understanding.

I know I should be grateful, because some people don’t get to spend 17 years with their father or worse, don’t know their father.  Yes, I am grateful for the times we shared,  but I cannot deny my feelings and wish there was more time.

He was a man of little words, but his actions spoke volumes. Daddy’s actions taught me lessons about fatherhood. Regardless of your education and economic status, if you work hard and don’t stop trying, you CAN provide a good life for your family.

Six days a week and at least 50 weeks a year, he got up at 4:00 a.m. to ready himself for work, which included cooking two poached eggs, several slices of bacon, and toast. Almost every morning I woke to the smell of bacon and could count on two or three slices set aside for me.

The absence of a high school diploma did not prevent him from taking care of his family.

He worked in a factory that manufactured plastics. Factory work is grueling. Imagine yourself surrounded by oversized, motorized, screeching, grinding, and heat-producing machines all day. No windows or air conditioning. Just blazing heat and noise every day all day; that’s what daddy did.

 He never complained about his job.

We lived in a modest three bedroom rancher on five acres of land. I grew up never wanting for anything tangible.  I had everything that I needed and more; plenty of food, a closet full of clothing, heat, hot running water, and a pretty bed to sleep in.

Daddy brought home the paycheck, and mom took care of it.  Her care for the paycheck is another post, but not today.

Daddy literally worked from sun up to sun down. Wearily each day he returned home from work. The rhythm was the same every day.

I hear daddy’s car pulling up in the driveway. Go in the closest and get his slippers. Put the black leather like slippers in front of his favorite high back armed chair. Greet him at the kitchen door with a big old kiss. Wait for him to sit down and remove his worn and dirty shoes, put them in the hall closet and sit back down. Sit on his lap and rub his silver, thinning, naturally slick and frizz free hair. Watch him smile. Today this makes me smile. Daddy I miss you! I wish that you could see your little girl today. I’ve grown up and I’m doing well. You’d love your son-in-law, he’s a hardworking man and great father—just like you!

As I said, I had everything that I needed and more. I only longed for more family time with him. Today I understand that daddy sacrificed time with me and the family, so that our family could live in comfort and without worry. The idea of fatherhood came natural to him. He probably did not realize that his actions taught me about the qualities that I should look for in a husband and in a father.

Ironically, my husband shares similar qualities as daddy. Tremendously hard-working and committed to providing for his family. He has leaned the importance of balancing work and family time, so we have enormous fun together. Although unspoken, like daddy, he doesn’t want his family to want for anything; always going above and beyond to provide for his wife and his two children.

Hubby & our daughter (2010)

“Big Daddy Cain” as I like to call him, is an outstanding role model for his children in the true essence of fatherhood and manhood. Hopefully they will take note and appreciate his qualities; I do!

Hubby and our son (summer 2011)

So, to all the dads who are appropriately handling their business of fatherhood AND to all the men who are filling someone else daddy’s shoes, Happy Father Day and thank you for all that you do!