Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Dad...

Dear Dad,

I'm sorry I'm a day late. I didn't get this message to you on Father's Day, but then I really don't know where to send it. By putting it in cyberspace maybe by chance you'll see it.

Saturday night Robert and I were talking about you. It's very interesting that your two sons remember you as being two different people. Each has a different perception of you and your relationship to us. He pointed out some things I hadn't thought about in many years, your laugh, your sense of humor, how you seemed to attract "characters," as you called them.

This morning I went through some old pictures and you might be interested in looking at them.

Here's one from your high school days. You look very mature for a teenager.

This next picture of you in your Stetson is from 1966. You were so proud of both that hat and your Buick Riviera. The Riviera is now considered a classic American car, but today a car like that would be too much of a gas guzzler. Gasoline is almost $3.00 a gallon, but if you find that unbelievable, last summer it went over $4.00 a gallon. A dollar is worth a lot less than when you died, more like a dime was 40 years ago.

Here's a picture that's kind of telling, I think. According to the date on the back it was taken July 29, 1967, just four months before you died. You look like you don't feel very well. On the back you've written, "a tired executive," and you do look tired. I remember your insomnia and unfortunately I also know about sleepless nights.

Here's an update. When I last saw you I was 19 years old, on my way to Germany with the U.S. Army. I'll be 62 in a few weeks. I'm retired from my three decades long career with the school district, and I've applied for Social Security. Rob works for an architectural firm as an artist. He uses a computer. Just like I'm typing this on. When you died computers were the size of a room. Now we have computers that fit on a desktop, or that fit in your lap. My wife, Sally, just bought one the size of a book that has more power than those early gigantic models. Science marches on.

Speaking of Sally, we've been married almost 41 years. I have one son, David, who was born in 1977. He married a Vietnamese girl in 2003. Yep, when you left us we were having a war with her countrymen, but that's been over for a long time. They in turn have two girls, oldest one 4 1/2, youngest just turning 3. They live in Pennsylvania. David took his family and moved across country for more opportunities. As a grandfather you can be proud of David, you can be proud of me for being his dad and having him turn out so well, and you can also be proud of Sally and me for being grandparents of such smart and attractive children.

Rob is currently single but has Mariana, who is from South America. She is a very charming and attractive person.

Dad, you might not remember this, but the last letter I got from you was about the heart attack you had at Thanksgiving, 1966. You said in that letter you had given up cigarette smoking, but you died very soon after that, on December 3, 1966. It wasn't your fault. In your generation smoking wasn't considered the health hazard it is today.

Dad, here's what you missed since you died: You missed the moon landing in July, 1969, you missed Dick Nixon's resignation from the presidency in 1974; you missed seeing the first black person elected to president in 2008.

You missed more wars...sadly, that's something we always have in abundance.

I can't even begin to tell you about cable and satellite television, cellular phones and the Internet. You just have to see them to understand, but there has been an information explosion undreamed of in the 1960s by even the most far-thinking futurist. No one foresaw attacks on our shores from terrorists in the 21st Century, and they didn't see that we'd be in a situation similar to the Great Depression by 2008, either, but we were attacked by terrorists in 2001, and we are currently in that precarious financial situation. I hope we learned some lessons from your era about getting ourselves out of our predicament.

Hey, Dad, hope I'm not being boring. I have thought about you a lot over the years. You've been dead since December, 1967, but I can still hear your voice in my head, I can still smell your aftershave. I saved the biggest news for us for last, and that was that Mom died a year ago May. She had been in a nursing home for four years. Unlike the moment you died, both Rob and I were at her side when she went. You'd be proud of Rob. He visited her every day.

I'm hoping that you, your sisters, Phyllis and Camille, your brothers-in-law Dan and Tom, your mother, Mary, your father, Dr. Parley, and our mother all get together for a family reunion in the great beyond.

Nowadays people say you and Mom are considered to be part of the Greatest Generation, those who went through World War II and the Great Depression and went on to build the world your children grew up in. Every day over 1,000 of your generation die. You just left us a lot sooner than most, but it doesn't mean you don't qualify for Greatest Generation status, because you do.

So, I hope you had a happy Father's Day. I spent mine thinking about you.

Love, your son.

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