My fifth project in this writing challenge is to write a letter to anyone. As many of my readers know, my dad passed away Sept. 6, 2008, and though I knew the man for my entire life, I didn’t know him. A few years after he died, I came across his life story. I wasn’t looking, but somehow I found it. Maybe the universe wanted me to find it so I could better understand my father and his crazy life. I do now.
It’s been almost 7 years since you went away. And as you might have expected, life has continued on. Every once in a while I’ll see or hear something that reminds me of you and I pause to remember your face, your walk, or the aroma of Old Spice that permeated the air around you.
The grandkids talk about you often and remember how you gave them candy and ice cream all the time. They tell their kids stories about you, and once in a while, I’ll look into their faces and see you there.
I found your life story a few years after you died. It was scattered in several boxes, but I found all the parts and was able to piece it all together. I learned a lot about your life that I didn’t know, such as your family’s move to Beloit when you were 2, and how Grandpa Meis was a butcher before he became a store owner. But what struck me most about your stories was your ability to capture a memory with words.
One of my favorite stories is the one about the rag man and his cart. It took my breath away. I was caught up in the moment, watching the little boy as he played in the alley dirt. I heard the creaking of the wheels, the clomping of the horse’s hooves as they hit the hard ground, the swish of its tail as it swatted the flies away. I could smell the sweet summer air and feel the light breeze on my face.
I didn’t just read your story; I relived your childhood memory.
It was then that I realized how much I wanted to write like you. I want to be able to write so the reader walks away with the same feeling your stories gave me. Your stories inspired me to become a better writer.
I miss you, Dad. I wish I would have talked to you more when you were alive. I would have asked to read your stories and maybe we would have talked about what life meant to you. I wish I would have known the man, as well as the father.
But I think the reason I didn’t ask was because I was mad at you, which didn’t occur to me until after you died. I resented you for not being the father I thought you should be. I wouldn’t let myself see anything but the expectations I had for you. I put a wall between us that I thought was saving me from being hurt, but what it did was prevent me from getting to know you as a human being. I know now that you did the best you could with what you had. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, and now it’s too late to do anything about it.
If I could, I would tell you that I’m sorry and I love you, but I hope in your heart you already knew it.
You have given me so many wonderful gifts, and though I feel like I haven’t given you much in return, what I can do is live how you taught me to live; to treat others with kindness and compassion; to be honest and generous; to have faith in God, help others in need, and do what I can to make the world a better place.
I’m reminded of a quote I saw recently: “Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day.” That’s how I feel, too, because even though I miss you, I know you are still here with us, in spirit.
Love, your daughter,