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: Prince Albert in a Can

Written by Jean Hartley on June 17, 2012

Military-officer Daddy and toddler Jean holding hands


Part 1

Recently I spied a red Prince Albert tobacco can in a cigar showcase and my throat tightened.

Suddenly I was back in high school doing dumb telephone pranks.

“Do you have Prince Albert in cans? You better let him out before he suffocates.”

Fifty years later that red can evoked powerful memories of, “. . .if only.”

In the 1940s we lived in a big house in Indianapolis, Indiana. I remember sitting on my Daddy’s lap in the worn winged-back chair listening to the Motorola radio sputtering out news from the front. We heard Churchill exhorting Londoners to keep up their courage during the Blitz.

Relaxing in the fading light of day, Daddy stirred the ice cubes in his evening bourbon and water with his finger. When my mother wasn’t looking, he let me chew the melting ice with its sharp alcohol bite.

The bourbon’s companion was either a cigar or pipe. When he smoked his Roi Tan cigar, he would ask me,”You like music?”

I knew what came next but could not resist the game. “Well, here’s a band,” he’d say as he slipped a paper cigar ring onto my finger.

I can still smell the Prince Albert crimp-cut tobacco as Daddy packed the loose shreds into his pipe bowl.

When we walked together I always hung on to his little finger. From my ground view I saw the highly polished leather riding boots, dove-grey jodhpurs, and a Sam Brown belt with holstered pistol, usual attire for Army officers in pre -World War II days.

The eagle insignia for the rank of Colonel sat on his shoulder epaulets, replaced later with the single silver star for Brigadier General.

Long after his polo and riding days were over, Daddy still carried a riding crop and wore jodhpurs.

Later he carried a cane, not for a physical need but for the Field Marshall Montgomery image.

Clinking ice, pungent pipe tobacco, and polished leather are vivid Daddy sounds and smells.

Part 2

In 1943 Daddy returned to our small French-speaking Louisiana town as a decorated war hero after 25 years of Army service. A parade honored the Cajun country boy who became a general.

I adored my Daddy but there were a few things I had trouble forgiving. He told me stories at bedtime about when he was a little girl, which I believed.

I don’t remember when I discovered the truth, but I always wanted to know “why” the little-girl charade? I remember his answer, “Cher, meant no harm. Thought you would like a girl story better. Forgive me?”

I always forgave him, but wondered about the other tales of stolen watermelons floating down the bayou.

Those romantic stories sounded like Huckleberry-Finn adventures. Were those fibs too?

“I knew our Division would soon leave for North Africa. Just wanted to comfort you, hold you before the good-night time.”

What about the promise to build a two-story dollhouse with electric lights, miniature furniture, and little family dolls with movable arms and legs?

The memory of his voice is still clear.

“Don’t know why I promised you things I knew I couldn’t deliver. Maybe I wanted to create reasons to come home to.”

Years later when I was all grown up and didn’t cry over lost doll houses, I saw rows of colorful campaign ribbons pinned above his left pocket representing medals awarded for gallantry in World War II. Among them were the highly valued Croix de Guerre and the French Legion of Honor.

Although I did not grasp the significance of these honors, I loved to trace my fingers over the campaign ribbons as Daddy told war stories.

Soon the V-mails and Stars and Stripes newspapers were packed away to yellow with time. After graduate school, I fled to the West Coast with others searching for the coffee houses of the Beat Generation.

My phone conversations home were brief – our family did not believe in extravagant long-distance calls. I assumed we would have time for more chats and visits but death took Daddy too soon at only 68 years.

I lost my precious last five minutes.

Part 3

During late-night hours I often replay old memory tapes.

I curl up in Daddy’s lap in the wing-back chair and ask again about the watermelons . . . and the dollhouse.

I know we will sit together by the Motorola for eternity, smell the aromatic Prince Albert, and clink ice cubes laced with bourbon.

Editor’s Note: This beautifully written story was submitted by Jean Hartley, a polio survivor who serves as coordinator for Disabled Adventures Hawaii, a nonprofit organization that “connects people with limited mobility on-line to accessible activities on the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.” Jean also blogs at Stories About Disability. Thank you so much, Jean! 

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

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

Memory of Dad: Your Real and Personal Prison

Written by Debbie Frye on June 12, 2012


I always wondered why you made a joke about everything. Yes, I laughed even when it wasn’t funny; mostly, because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.

But, I wished we could have held more meaningful and serious conversations together.

Maybe you were afraid to speak from your heart. I think that I know you better now, after your death.

I feel that I really missed knowing you while I had the opportunity.

After researching your life story, I understand you much better. I never knew you were abandoned by Grandma when you were a toddler.

For much of my youth, you were serving time in a penitentiary. I feel that the rest of your life, you were living in your own personal prison.

You were always guarded with your thoughts and feelings. When you told me, “I could tell you stories that could sell a book,” I regret not asking you what you meant.

It could have saved many years of research!

Mom used to say that you were a character. How ironic that you ARE a character in a book!

I still love you and miss you!

Editor’s Note: Debbie Frye and her sister co-authored a book about their father and his life of crime entitled, “Our Father Who Aren’t In Heaven: A True Story of a Career Criminal.” The book (and e-book) is available on the sisters’ website and also from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Memory of Dad: Thank You for Being Proud of Me

Written by Skip Press on June 11, 2012

Toddler Skip Press and his father, Lloyd 

My father, Lloyd Press, had a lot of problems, and some of them got inflicted on me.

He spent some time in the state mental institution when I was 15, and my mother divorced him.

I wanted to know why he had his problems, and I embarked on a lifelong examination of the mind, religions, and healing modalities.

Perhaps it even spurred my writing–my 46th book (most written in my own name)–comes out this August.

The last time I saw my father, he told me he was proud of me.

That’s the memory I live with.

Editor’s Note: This Memory of Dad was written by Skip Press, a prolific Hollywood screenwriter and author. 

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Five More Minutes With Mom and Dad

Written by Elizabeth Gaughan on June 7, 2012


You left without warning and I am left with so many things left unsaid.

I would hug you and tell you I love you.

That I appreciate all the things you did for me.

That I’m happy and proud to have you for a Mom.



I left you before you went home.

I couldn’t bear to watch you go, but you were not alone.

I hope when you arrived at the “Family Reunion,” as you used to call Heaven, that you were met with all your lost and sadly missed loved ones.

I wish I had stayed to bid you farewell and tell you I love you and that I am so gratefull to have such a wonderful man as a Dad.