The Letter Never Read

Shortly after 15:12, the 6th of January, 2006:

Dear Dad,

As I write this, large soft snowflakes fall silently from the sky outside, the perfect reflection of my current mood. My sadness is not sharp, but covers everything with a quiet grey pain matched by the colour of the midwinter sky. In my mind, I tearfully bid you goodbye, and I meander back through the most meaningful of my memories of our times together over the years.

The first landmark recalls our recent visit at the hospital where you, my wife, my son, and I laughed and talked, all the while avoiding mention of the coming separation, the one that has now come to pass. It is the quintessential bittersweet moment, all of us doing our best to be cheerful. Later that day, as I trimmed your mustache and eyebrows, we looked each other in the eye, speaking volumes with nary a word. We both felt our love for the other then, I think far more strongly in that single tick of the clock, than when we said the words and shared our last embrace, at the end of that last day. I can't ask for a better final memory of you, Dad, as you were not a wordsmith, preferring meaningful looks, facial expressions, and understanding presence over talk.

Moving on in my mind, there was a time when you lived a short drive away, and we could see each other when the mood struck. We often did little more than watch your favourite TV shows together, or stand on the back step while you smoked. When we did talk, we took turns listening, while the other would pour out pent up feelings about the things that bothered him the most that day, week or month. Our long pauses in conversation were almost always packed with feeling, though our words were few. Reflecting on this, I realise that you had become my best friend, one of the very few people in this world who would hear me out, without interruption, without judgement, but with a tactile empathy. I do so hope that I made you feel the same when you spoke.

Switching direction, I come back to a time more recent, to when you changed address and lived much farther away, in the South. We only did get to see each other on maybe a handful of occasions during that time. Saying goodbye was difficult then, but not impossibly so, because we anticipated the upcoming day when it would be my turn to move, and once again we would be a short drive away from each other. Sadly however, circumstances have dictated otherwise. The distance between us can no longer be bridged by simply driving a car, or dialing a phone. You have made that singular, monumental change of address called Death. And we thought your cell phone cutting out was a pain. ...This pales in comparison, doesn't it, Dad? Now we'll just have to wait for my turn, whenever that may be.

The next memory, several memories really, is of all the times we went to the computer show together, occasionally with Dan and Don, maybe even Bob. Sometimes, we would even buy something. Frequently, we would enjoy a meal together after. I shared in your enthusiasm for computers, as well as in your frequent frustration with learning them. I know how hard it was for you to learn what you wanted. I didn't have the heart to tell you then, but should have, that the secret to my successes, and your failures, was the amount of reading it takes. After all, you played a significant role in encouraging my reading ability. I owe you so much for giving me that.

I next run quickly to the farthest point in my memory, to see if I can still get there. I can, but here the pavement is crumbled. The roadsigns are overgrown with weeds. But the place is still here. This was before kindergarten, so I couldn't have even been five yet. Going inside, there is only you, Dan, and I. Mom is back in the car. On a great cliff way above us a boulder is perched. You whisper to us, "Be very quiet, we don't want the rock to fall". I looked at you with so much awe back then. Much later, I grew up and became a man. My perspective changed. I learned that you were only a man, and like all men, you had many failings, some of which profoundly affect me and my family. Oddly enough, this only served to deepen my love for you. My respect for you grew as I came to understand the sacrifices and decisions you made, and how much they cost.

Thankfully, I had the chance to tell you as much. A hop, skip and a jump later, I arrive at the day I married [my wife]. We dedicated the ceremony to you, our parents. As I stood before the folks gathered in the church, I read the words I had written for you, telling everyone how proud I was of you, and how thankful I was for the hard work you did that became a part of who I am. We looked each other in the eye that day, too. A mere glance, and we communicated in that millisecond more than a million words or a lifetime of conversations could. It was such a delight to bring you so much joy, and see it shining in your face.

As a matter of fact, I can recall a number of such moments with you. It still amazes me, the synergy that passed between us at those times. Your enthusiasm for my abilities fueled my desire to share them with you, to see you take such pride in my accomplishments. I remember a day last February, when we were down South with you, Mary and her family. We had just finished picking up some food at a local chicken shack. You insisted on hearing me talk to the hispanic gal that worked there, just so you could hear me speak with her in Spanish. Mary understandably wanted to get the food home before it got cold, but I couldn't resist seeing that wonderful gleam in your eyes. Another time, years earlier, you actually even spoke of this. Not long after I could claim Spanish as my language, we sat in a church together, when you came to visit while I was studying in Puerto Rico. Throughout the service, I whispered a running translation of what was being said. Although I don't remember your exact words, afterwords you told me how amazing it was that I could do that, and how proud it made you. Oh how I wish I could look in your eyes to tell you the following. Ahora, te presento esta última traducción: Papi, las palabras no bastan para expresar las gracias que te debo por todo lo que hacías por mí. Por lo tanto, sólo te digo un sencillo, ¡Gracias! Now, I present to you this one final translation: Dad, words are not enough to express the thanks I owe you for all you have done for me. Therefore, I'll just tell you, simply, thank you!

With much love,