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From a distance

November 27, 2011

(Editorial note – This is a letter to my Dad, who passed away 16 years ago. Anyone who has ever had a severed relationship with a family member may appreciate this. If he were here today this is what I’d like to say. I was supposed to post this on Thanksgiving, his birthday, but my mother woke up that morning short of breath. A day in the emergency room, worrying about her heart, is not a great day.)

Dear Dad,

I was born into a family that loved me. At nine months of age I stood up for the first time and learned to walk holding onto the knees of elders and siblings sitting on the living room couch. I haven’t sat still since.

You loved life. That’s why I am here. You wanted a large family and ignored the naysayers. Nine children gave you 21 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They are all amazing individuals! Every one of them melts me. I’d like to believe that we have all become a positive influence on society.  Because of you, my husband has a wife and three children get to be.

Every family has its troubles. By volume, we had plenty. I will never know your stress, nor the pressures you felt to succeed. Unfortunately, only death gave us real closure.

I just won’t dwell, but neither will I let history repeat itself. That’s a cloudy day that never clears. Instead, I control my legacy, making those daily decisions that can either build or demolish the heart of a family. I am a builder.

Today – your birthday and our Thanksgiving – I’d like to send a little thank you to heaven.  (Maybe this will influence someone else to reconnect with a loved one, while they still have time to love with a warm heart.)

I love this life. Each day I begin by noting my blessings and thinking of others. Through appreciation that I draw strength. Contentment is not the absence of problems, but rather the presence of faith. The parts of you that I chose to remember I still hold dear.

You called me “Mary the Good.”  I don’t know how I got that nickname when I was always toddling out of the yard and out of sight, causing regular search-and-rescue missions in the neighborhood.

You gave me Mom. She truly is my best friend, my heart and my soul. She still teaches me. Every second of every minute of every day I have with her I give thanks. God made sure she lived a long life. It is our gift.

She did a great job of raising all of us. Mom made sure there was faith in our life, so in times of trouble we had each other and something to hold on to. We really are close, despite our periodic arguments. There’s more kissing that hissing.

I’m like you in many of ways. I have your thick head of hair and your giant belly laugh, the one that can silence a crowded restaurant as everyone turns to see what is so funny. I don’t drink Manhattan’s with two olives, however. Once you took Ken, Joe and I out for pizza and asked the waitress to put three olives in your drink so we could each have one. She arrived with three olives in all our drinks.  I can still hear you laughing.

You helped me to stretch my curiosity and learn to appreciate the written word. My living room has more books than time. You encouraged my love of reading, even when it caused library fines. You let me sit between you and Mom after dinner while reading Andy Rooney columns and editorials aloud.

I liked listening to you and Mom discuss current events. One time, when you were discussing that George Washington’s birthday was coming up, I stood up on the high chair and said, “Oh, goody. When’s the party?” I was four. Birthdays meant homemade pizza and cake to me. That’s another party I wanted to go to.

While I might not have agreed with your correspondence over the years, I appreciated how well written they were and your signature with a figure eight squiggle.

I would love to talk with you about what I am doing now. You are right: Every one has a story to tell.  I wish I could talk to you about your love of music and your work as a war correspondent in World War II.

Thank you for the letters you wrote me in college, describing your work as a police beat reporter in New York City in the 1940‘s. It’s full of sage advice that still applies today. On a shelf in my office sits your old Underwood typewriter, the one you used to write a series of stories about drunken driving that lead New York to enact its first drunk driving laws. You should have won a Pulitzer prize. The scrapbook still exists.

I still smile when I think about how much you loved an unopened can of peanuts, kid art, nature and the trip we took to Colorado Springs. One time, while we were visiting Royal Gorge, you told me that if a boy called me gorgeous he was really saying that I was “one hell of a hole in a rock.” Come on, that’s still funny!

When I hold a prayer book I wander back to the time when, as a little girl, I watched the way you and Mom clutched bibles in your hands at church. My memory is a child’s-eye view.

Sometimes I am sure you are the intuition over my shoulder as I write.  I like you there.

Happy Birthday Dad.  Peace.



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