How do I start? I’ve been working this through my head in so many different ways over the last few weeks. How cruel that two major annual celebration days fall so quickly upon Dad’s death: Mom and Dad’s 72nd anniversary on Friday and Father’s Day today. Mom’s first anniversary without her husband, and my and my brothers and sisters’ first Father’s Day without our father. In some way, maybe just owning up to that and the bittersweet sadness of it all, and moving forward is part of grieving my way back to happiness.
So there. I’ve done that.
Now, here’s what I’m thinking. I’ve a collection of cards that I’ve written to Dad from Father’s Days past that I want to share with you, some in my own handwriting so I hope that you can decipher the script. It used to be way better than it has turned out to be now in my 60’s.
FYI, Mom and Dad both have distinctive handwriting; his strong and powerful with a formality to it. I can almost feel the teacher standing over him forcing him to hone his penmanship.
He turned that long ago stern instruction into his own mark and when he signed his name, he always did so like he meant it, with a flourishing swoop of his writing hand. Whether he was signing a mortgage or our report cards, he put his mark to paper leaving his trademark showing that he had full understanding of what he had signed, and that he stood by his signature.
Mom’s is an art form in itself, almost calligraphy in style. She actually uses a postcard or some form of sturdy paper to set her lines absolutely straight, completing each line before coming back and filling in the descending portions of each letter. It’s a process that is awesome to watch.
But this isn’t about their handwriting. It’s about Father’s Day and I want to start it all off with the most remarkable card Dad ever sent me. It’s dated 1984 and it’s a birthday card, but it might as well be for Father’s Day. He sent it to me when I turned 31 on April 10, 1984, forty-two days after Clark was born. The brevity adds to the eloquence. It’s both lesson, praise and hope tightly tied together in his clearest of printing. Not one extra word used nor required. I have cherished it ever since – for the last 31 years.
And then there’s my card to Dad in 2009. Like you, I’ve sent my dad many a Father’s Day card over the years. Long ago I stopped buying cards at the store for the most part, choosing to make my own. Sometimes I’d dress it up with a photo thanks to the Mac. Sometimes I used plain 8.5 by 11 inch sheets of plain printer paper folded in half. Sometimes I’d find some nice paper stock that holds the ink of a fountain pen and helps the nib glide across the paper. I guess I inherited the joy of writing letters and words on real paper like my folks. Would that I had their wonderful handwriting. Occasionally I had to interpret a word or two for them.
Anyway, I think that this card captures what I’ve written over the years and re-voiced from almost all angles. I never tired of telling my Dad how I loved him and his importance in my life each year as I grew another year wiser and he showed me another year of life’s lessons.
Of course, this year, he won’t receive and read my card, nor hold it in his hands and think about it for a minute, before folding back up and giving it to Mom. He’s now shown me the final lesson in life.
I leave you with this. A note that I wrote to him long ago spurred by my own reckoning of fatherhood, its immense joy and corresponding responsibility, as I came back to bed after tending to my baby boy, toddling in age, troubled by something during the night in his bed. I think that it says it all. One of the most important acts of fathering lies in how you pass along the truth of your connection and turn it into a guidepost for your children’s fatherhood. I hope that I’ve come close to living to that intention in my life as a father to Clark and Blair.
Goodnight Dad. Words fall too short in stating how much that I miss you, today and ever more. By the way, your boy Jordan Spieth won the US Open! But you know that already.