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And there goes Dad.

28 years ago, I was completely out of touch with my family. I'd been gone a long time, they didn’t know why I’d left, they didn’t know where I was, and that’s the way I wanted it.

My mom tracked me down by asking the Social Security Administration to forward a letter to whatever was my last known address, from their records. SSA moves slowly, though, and the letter took months to reach me.

Mom's letter said that my father had cancer, and probably didn't have long to live, so maybe I'd like to call or write or even visit before he died. At the bottom, my brother Clay added, "P.S. He died."

Dad was dead. I hadn’t even known he'd been sick.

After reading Mom's letter and Clay's PS, I cried a lot, and wrote a letter to my mom, though honestly I don't remember writing it.

A couple of days ago, talking to my sister about my mom's trips to the ER, Sis mentioned that Mom had recently found that old letter, and they'd all read it aloud at a family dinner. That strikes me as strange, but hell, it's obvious by now I know nothing of what's 'normal' or 'strange'.

When I told my sister that I didn't remember writing the letter, she scanned it and sent me a copy. Now I've read it, but I still don't remember writing it. Guess I was a wreck that day.

———

October 6, 1993

Dearest Mom, and dear everyone else who might read this,

Mom's letter arrived yesterday, with Clay's note at the bottom: “He died.” I cried all night, writing this through tears.

What Dad meant to me can’t be put into words. Love, of course, but that’s so inadequate. He was the best Dad I could’ve had. Not too critical of my mistakes, while never hesitating to tell me what my mistakes were. Never overbearing, but not too far away to help. Always the provider, and good example. Just ... Dad.

There’s so much of him in me — his workaholic habits, lots of his outlook and temperament, and often I hear his words from my mouth. Of course, I’ve got his big belly and smelly feet.

And in all the ways Dad and I are different, he was a better man. 

Papa-San.

He was in my dreams last night, which isn’t unusual — you’re all in my dreams, and often. Your family is with you, always. 

I can’t be sorry that I missed his funeral, though. You know, Mom, how I abhor funerals. If I’d been in Seattle, I still wouldn’t have gone. No disrespect intended, and anyone who sees it that way sees it wrong. It’s just that funerals suck, so I won’t be there at yours, or mine, or anyone else’s.

My life lately is another letter if anyone’s interested, but not for today. Suffice to say, my health is generally decent for a middle-aged fat guy.

And no, Mom, I don’t have AIDS, I’m not gay, not in a cult or commune, not dealing or doing drugs, not running guns for the Contras, and I haven’t killed anyone. My deepest secrets are more boring than you’ve probably imagined.

I am sorry that I’ve been so very out of touch, and that I didn’t have a chance to tell Dad what he meant to me, and say goodbye. 

No contact doesn’t mean there’s no feeling. Solitude is just my habit.

I would've said this on the phone if I had one, but I don’t, and don't want to be bawling and blubbering and blowing my schnoz at a public phone booth. I make more sense on paper, anyway.

Mail reaches me at the box: ██████████, San Francisco CA 94110. I check it once a month-ish, so replies won’t be prompt, but I’m not going anywhere and I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who remembers me. I remember you each and all, and right now, Dad, especially.

Your silent son,
crazy brother,
long-lost uncle,
and whatever else I might be,
but always with love,

♦ ♦ ♦

All these years later, I'll say a few more words about my old man.

He was stoic, and rarely said anything out of anger or with a snap judgment. Instead he'd sit, look at you or look out the window, think things over, and maybe 10 or 20 seconds later he'd have something to say. When he finally spoke, whatever he said was usually smart and right, even if it wasn't what you'd wanted to hear.

Dad was fascinated by flight, and even as a kid he'd always wanted to work in aviation and aeronautics. When an airplane flew high overhead, even if it was barely a dot in the distance, my dad could look at it and identify its make and model. Some planes, he could identify just by the sound of their engines. At home, he tiled our kitchen floor with brown and yellow squares, laid out in the shape of a jet aircraft.

He worked for Boeing virtually all of his adult life, and loved it. He helped design Boeing's supersonic transport (which was never built), and the Saturn 5 rocket that took a few men to the moon, and Stealth fighters and bombers that took many people to their deaths.

He always had a science-fiction book at his bedside. He said grace before every meal, and before snacks, too. He taught me that cheddar is good on a hot slice of apple pie, that peanut butter and chopped onions make a Spam sandwich divine, and to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a glass of root beer. 

Dad wasn't perfect, and he was distant, even when he was there. He tried, though. He cared. He loved science, and science-fiction, and airplanes, and God, and us. He was the dad I'd choose, if I could choose any dad in the world.

9/8/2021

itsdougholland.com 

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7 comments:

  1. I daresay sir, if it is your intent to convey SADNESS here you have succeeded.

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    Replies
    1. Success! Yessir, that's my mission today, spreading tears to wash the world!

      Delete
  2. >He taught me that peanut butter and chopped onions make a Spam sandwich divine

    Ah, your weird food habits run in the family. Mine were born of either laziness or being stoned. Then realizing, damn, peanut butter in ramen is actually really good.

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    Replies
    1. I imagine the pb melts, so it's gotta be yummy. Do you still put the powder in the ramen, or just the pb?

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    2. Alright, I'm gonna give you my recipe for comfort stew. You know me, you know I'm not bullshitting you. This is good, but I haven't made it in years. It's HIGH calorie, HIGH carb.

      Make two packs of ramen, with powder. When done, drain about 2/3 of the water. Add 1/2 a sleeve of saltines, a can of tuna with the tuna water (not oil), a large spoon of peanut butter, and a handful of shredded cheddar.

      If you don't have saltines, use a handful or two of corn flakes or something.

      It's great. The PB mostly melts, if you mix it all up. Maybe add the PB first, before the other ingredients, after draining the water.

      Delete
    3. I should say - CRUSH the saltines, and it all gets mixed very well.

      Delete
    4. Sounds absolutely sickening, so I'm intrigued. Added ramen and crackers and shredded cheddar to the shopping list.

      Delete

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