Letter to Dad: Why Do We Wait Until It’s Too Late?

Written by Carol-Ann Hamilton on July 9, 2012

Carol-Ann Hamilton and her father

Though the premise of this website is, “If I had five more minutes to spend with a departed loved one,” I did take the opportunity to recently write and mail a three-page letter to my declining 89-year-old father to express what we have meant to one another across the years.

This, so as to not leave regrets over what should have been said before he passes.

Why do we wait until it’s too late? While deeply personal, I hope my heart-felt outpouring brings memories for others.

Excerpted, here is my Top-10 List, based on five decades-plus as my parents’ only child.

1. I profoundly internalize that you and Mommy wanted me. Many unfortunate children cannot say they were cherished by their parents as I was. It is clear you both loved me right from birth.

2. Despite the fact that funds were tight for a number of years, you demonstrated a sense of honour second-to-none in always trying to make things nice. You provided. More than one father shirks his responsibility. Not you!

3. Putting out your back creating my sandbox is forever etched in my consciousness. Remember how often we played Frisbees, shot basketballs, and played baseball catch?

4. The trips we took – big and small – were quite amazing in retrospect. I recently pulled out my old photo albums and relished the pictures, particularly those from eastern Canada and the southern United States.

5. Something I REALLY respect was standing by your hospital bed as you brought yourself back single-handedly from death’s doorstep. The strength and determination that took! You have my un-ending admiration for your sheer grit.

6. I further cannot thank you enough for the turning-point dialogue we shared about the difficult parts of my growing-up years. You took ownership like a man for the damaging impact that anguished time generated. I have long ago realized many of the factors that led up to that despaired period for you and Mommy. I assure you, I am complete with it as you go to your grave. May you be, also.

7. While previously mentioned, it bears repeating that we have performed yeoman’s service together since we lost her in April 2010. For both of us, it may have been one of the most grueling periods during the long life chapter we have been father and daughter. My prayer is that you have benefitted throughout.

8. I most certainly feel that way when I consider the value of what you have contributed to me in thoughtfulness across time. We have frequently kidded I must now owe you something like $1,689,234 when we add up your generosity plus priceless love.

9. Then, we come to the countless conversations in which you have amply demonstrated you “get it.” You have imparted your lessons well. Your stewardship of justice, integrity, principle, courage, and excellence shall reside permanently within me.

10. Last, but not least, I have so often felt SEEN and HEARD by you as the child and woman I Really Am that I have frankly lost count.

To recognize someone in their Essence is quite possibly one of the greatest gifts you can accord.

Whew! What more is there to say?

Not much! I believe I have expressed what is in my deepest core.

So you can to your grave in quietude and rest that you did your very best.

Trust me. I shall voyage well for the long duration of my journey henceforth.

You have left things in my capable hands, and I will attend to everything with fitting aplomb.

I will be more than fine in every possible regard.

All this to say, thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for being my father.

I love you very much, Daddy.

Your ever-lasting daughter,

Carol-Ann Patricia

Editor’s Note: This touching letter was written by Carol-Ann Hamilton, a Principal at Spirit Unlimited & Changing Leadership in Toronto. Carol-Ann is the author of or contributor to six leadership, entrepreneurial, and self-help books. Her seventh book, “Coping with Un-cope-able Parents: LOVING ACTION for Eldercare will be published later on this year.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad,With You

Memory of Dad Poem: My Daddy–You Endeared Yourself to Me

Written by Betty Kreisel Shubert on June 15, 2012

MY DADDY

When I was just a little girl,

You endeared yourself to me –

By playing games of funny names

In ceilings and things we’d see.

You bought me a trike and a teddy bear –

The fact that you were always there –

Endeared you to me.

 

We ice skated down to Robertson –

When everyone else just walked.

We were better friends than anyone –

Often we just talked.

We gazed at stars – looked at Mars – studied astronomy.

The earth was an orange,

The sun, a lamp, as you explained the world to me.

 

As a rule, I’d be late for school (still am to be perfectly true).

I doubt if I’d ever have gotten there –

If it hadn’t been for you.

There were pony rides on Sunday morn.

You held me tight the night Brother was born

You knew I felt so alone and forlorn.

You endeared yourself to me.

 

If it rained a day that I was at school,

I knew that I could count on you to pick me up at three.

You would often leave an important case –

To endear yourself to me.

You always attended our May Day Fete –

And always you made me proud –

Because you were so handsome and your voice as a Barker, so loud.

 

As I grew up, you (and Mother, too),

Encouraged me in my field,

Gave me the prize of self,

Confidence to enfold me like a shield.

You rubbed sleep from your eyes –

To see a new sketch and approvingly exclaim.

How can I ever hope to explain –

How you endeared yourself to me.

You stepped over pins and mannequins –

For years you stayed in your room.

Tho’ I wonder now, how you stood for it,

You endeared yourself to me.

 

I’m grateful, too, for the way that you

Get along with my chosen mate.

Maintaining a bond of friendship,

I really think is great.

 

I mustn’t forget the Skippy stories –

Or the way you patted me to sleep.

The love and understanding –

That you rooted so very deep.

You handed down this patience, whimsy, and fun –

To your grandchildren – my daughter and my son.

I really am a lucky girl to have this wealthy store –

Of integrity, this legacy of imagination and lore.

 

Some give their children everything –

That money alone can buy –

But I am so much richer –

‘cause what I have you can’t buy.

My memories are YOUR TREASURY –

Better than money in the bank –

For this life time annuity, my Daddy, I must thank.

You endeared yourself to me.

 

Love always,

Betty

Editor’s Note: This poem was submitted by Betty Kreisel Shubert, a renowned theatrical costume designer with credits for stage, screen, television specials, ready-to-wear, Las Vegas musicals, and Disneyland.

Betty is also a fashion historian and author-illustrator of the upcoming book, “Out of Style: How, Why and When Vintage Fashions Evolved.” Congratulations on your book, Betty, and thank you for sharing this wonderful poetic tribute to your father. He sounds like a wonderful man. You are so lucky!

 

Memory of Dad: Dads Always Find Out

Written by Randi Levin on June 14, 2012

I have many memories of my Dad.

My story begins on my very first night of grad school, once class was let out.

My class was on a military base. The front license plate on my car was missing, so MP’s pulled me over.

Long story short they arrested me and kept me for many hours in a cell being told, “No phone call, no this or that–just sit there!”

All I could think about was, “There goes my graduate degree, and OMG how am I am going to explain this to my Dad?”

At the end of their shift,  I was driven back to my car. Nothing happened and nothing was ever said to my parents.

And yes, I could still go to graduate school. Thank goodness!

***

Just about 30 years later, Dad was ill and slowly dying, Mom was battling cancer, and I had several careers.

Needless to say, I was visiting my parents quite often, primarily to spend precious time with Dad.

One night there was some movie on the TV, I sat on the couch reading and watching and he did the same from his chair.

All of a sudden, some innocent people were swept away and locked in a military jail.

And then, out of nowhere. my dad looked right into my eyes and said, “It doesn’t feel so good to be locked up in a military jail does it, Babe?”

I mumbled some answer, yet at that moment I knew that he knew what had happened so many years back.

I didn’t say anything related and he went back to his book and movie.

How he knew I didn’t know. But trust that Dads always find out and know much more about us than we could ever imagine!

To this day I still miss him. . .

Editor’s Note: Randi Levin is a cookbook author/publisher in Colorado who specializes in high-altitude cooking and baking. 

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

One Last Conversation with Dad

Written by Charles Price on April 2, 2012

This story was submitted by my new friend, Charles Price, who co-owns and blogs for The Taste of Oregon website in Eugene, Oregon. I met Charles at fellow writer Crescent Dragonwagon’s recent Deep Feast writers’ workshop in Seattle. We hit it off immediately, and after a series of Facebook messages, discovered we are both alums of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas!

Charles sent this beautifully written story about his father, along with two nostalgic photos. I welcome Charles to the Five More Minutes With family, and know you will appreciate his thoughtful words as much as I do. Thanks, Charles!

One Last Conversation with Dad

“Dad”…………………. “Dad!”

Hearing myself say “Dad” just now was much easier than I expected. I’m so grateful that you can hear me call you Dad and feel so right with it. The last time I said your name to your face I was calling you “Daddy” and just beginning to feel awkward with that.

On the day you left us, Jimmy Chapin and I were casually strolling home from school on an otherwise beautiful March afternoon. I noticed Mr. Tucker’s 1955 Pontiac coming toward us. He didn’t pass and wave. As he slowed and pulled toward us, the first thing I saw was my mother crying. This isn’t good, I thought.

Mr. Tucker opened the back door and I got in. A handkerchief was passed over the front seat. “Your Daddy’s dead!” my mother said as best she could.

I was 12 and you were a mere 52. I was on the brink of my teens and then……… a blink and you were gone. Forever!

Wait….WAIT! We’re not through. NO! NO! NO! I cried in my mind.

Then the voices arrived…..so many voices. I never really heard voices as such; it was more of a constant humming that blurred my reality.

Everything about this day was different. Time slowed down. My swollen eyes were like magnifying glasses, selectively enlarging this and that at random. My hearing was like that, too.

Then a deep, cold, and thundering voice boomed through the chaos in my head, “He’s gone! Dead! Deal with it! It’s your fault and you know it!”

All those times I was so angry with you that I mentally wished you dead began swirling about my mind like ghosts with gossamer fingers pointed at me. I began crying uncontrollably and could no longer see through the tears.

The events of your last day with us are engraved in my memory in minute detail, frozen forever for me to visit anytime.

We made it through the weekend, your funeral, into the grieving, and eventually the healing.

Do you remember the day you came home from work, and I invited you into the backyard to see something I had made? I had taken some bricks I found in the garage and, with the help of a shovel, made shallow holes so the bricks rested flush with the surface of the ground in four places, diamond-shaped. It was my juvenile “Field of Dreams.” I was about 9 and wanted to play baseball with you.

Sometime in the week before, I was goaded into playing softball with the boys in the neighborhood. I said yes in a desperate attempt to quiet their questioning my masculinity. And after all, who needed them for that?  I was doing a terrific job on my own.

Am I out of my mind? I thought. I’ve stepped into something that will prove forever my ineptitude with sports.

My tormentors were eager to put me on the spot. I don’t know what happened to me but when I stepped up to bat, I hit that ball dead on and knocked it clear over Mrs. Darby’s roof and beyond. I know I didn’t gloat, but I’m sure I puffed up a bit.

I remember how much you loved music and wish you could have experienced my musical years. I was a budding clarinetist when you passed on. Even my choice of clarinet was based on my fear of sports. My first choice was violin but marching bands don’t use violins. Marching bands are, however, a substitute for gym class and sports. Safety in the clarinet!

I know you remember how well I did in school; straight A’s for six years in a row. My only blemish was a negative check in “self control” somewhere in there. Me, caught out of control? Me, who could go to parties and no one would know I was there? Oh well, must’ve been a sudden urge for attention and so unlike me….at least then.

It would be years before I would even notice that my fall from A’s to B’s, C’s, and worse happened right after your death.

During those years, my feelings for you grew cold, buried deep in resentment. I had enough on you to resent you for the rest of my life. My feelings were easily hurt, and you knew just where those buttons were. I thought your spankings were hard and cruel. I resented your weekend drinking, and felt embarrassed to be seen with you. You were also older than my friends’ fathers. Their moms and dads were in their 30s. I hated you! No wonder I was gay, with an example like you.

You were my excuse for all my shortcomings. After all, how could a person with a father like you succeed?

Pretending to be straight when you’re not is like walking a tightrope; one slip and your weakness is exposed. I convinced myself that I was merely in a phase that would pass on when I met the “right” girl. Surprise, Charles, it’s not a phase. It’s very real. Get used to it!

It would be about another twenty years before I chose to do something different about my life. I was in my late 30s and having a mid-life crisis. One of my very dearest friends, Barbara Grove, had recently attended a multi-weekend self-help workshop, which was then called The Life Training. Now it’s called More To Life.

I explained to her the depth of my despair and asked if this would be good for me. “Most assuredly,” she told me.

There was (and is) nothing religious about this course, even though two Episcopal priests created it. It is, however, deeply spiritual.

There was a great deal of sharing, which scared me to death. There’s no way I’m going to let strangers see the crap in my heart, my unworthiness, and ultimately that I am a freak.

I stayed with it for both weekends as I had promised Barbara. I spent much of the workshop dealing with my issues with you, Dad. I was given a process where I could express my deep anger for you in a safe way that harmed no one. My, my, my – just expressing the anger freed up a fresh space big enough to fill with something of value: the truth.

With the help of other processes, I uncovered the truth about you:

  • You did the best you could with what you had
  • You loved your family, including me
  • Like everyone on this earth, you had your own mental dragons to slay
  • You were, simply put, as you were – perfection – the perfect father for me

It was at this time that I got a grasp on forgiveness and its power to release self-inflicted shackles. I left the training much more whole. However, it would another twelve years before I had an epiphany and busted my shackles of resentment for you forever.

It was my own 52nd year. Vic, my lifemate since 1990, and I had relocated to Baltimore from Texas. It was a beautiful fall afternoon; I was on the floor of the living room in the middle of yet another forgiveness process with you. This one was deep and with an extra large helping of emotion. Just at the conclusion, an image of you appeared before my mind’s eye. It was the same image I conjured up during all the processes I had done before. Only this time, it was captioned:

“I deserve a loving place in your heart.”

I heard you! And so, Dad, you have it.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Honoring Dad’s Last Wishes

Written by Sheryl Phillips on June 30, 2011

We lost my Dad December 2, 2011, to Multiple Myeloma.

We just found out the end of October that he had it.

He wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the ocean. He fought about that quite often with my stepmother; she didn’t agree.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have a will at the time of his death.

Luckily, she agreed to have him cremated, and asked to keep his ashes through the holidays.

We agreed and asked to spread his ashes for his birthday in February.

She has since said she cannot do it.

I am having a very hard time dealing with the fact that my Dad sits in an urn on her mantle and it’s almost July. I have been searching for something that says what is proper etiquette when it comes to the honoring of  a loved one’s wishes.

I feel he is being disrespected by sitting on a shelf like one of her clown figurines!

I know she’s hurting; we all are. I can’t voice my concerns because she never answers the phone.

And my brother says, “What’s the hurry, he’s not here anymore.”

Isn’t this an integrity thing? If you love someone, shouldn’t you honor their wishes?

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

The Hurried Wedding

Written by Jeani Ziering on March 18, 2011

My father died many years ago. He was 46 at the time. I was 21.

I have often thought that losing my father at that time in my life has also changed the course of my life. I planned an impromptu wedding with the man I was dating. The ceremony was supposed to take place in the hospital so that my father could participate. My dear father died the night before the wedding.

My first thought on hearing the news was, “I’m off the hook.”

However, that turned out not to be true.

Immediately after the funeral, my mother planned a large wedding. I was distraught over my father’s death and was unable to voice my fears about getting married. It was very foolish of me.

The marriage turned out to be very tumultuous, and eventually ended in a nasty divorce.

I feel that if I could have had another five minutes with my father, I could have asked for his guidance and advice.

Perhaps I would have married anyway; perhaps not.

But at least I would not have felt that it was something that I was rushed into in order to please everyone other than myself.

The idea of 5 minutes more with a loved one is very ironic to me. Over the years since my father’s death, I have often had dreams where he appeared and offered his kindness and comfort.

When he started to disappear, I often said, “Daddy, please stay. At least give me another five minutes.”

Editor’s Note: Jeani Ziering, president of Ziering Interiors, often writes about interior-design topics. She is also currently working on a novel.

 

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad