To everyone who has an unspeakable connection to their father or longs for an ineffable connection with their father...this is a letter I wrote to my dad in 2008 for his 60th birthday...it communicates my heart for him to this day. I not sure why, but I was drawn to reread some of the communications I'd had with him over the last several years and when I read these thoughts I shared with him 4 years ago, my heart lurched inside my chest. I hope it will cause you to reach out to your fathers today, some to thank them, some to apologize to them, some of the forgive them, some to mend the tear in the relationship. One thing is for sure, there is some mysterious connection that God puts in our hearts with our father...I can barely explain it, but in this letter, I try my my best...
To my Dad:
Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve been dreading this day. There are few things that fill me with more grief than watching my parents get older. It’s hard for me to not keep going down that road of thought to what another year of age is eventually leading to in the end. I know…that’s morbid, but it’s the truth.
I wish I could put you in a time capsule and spend the next 27 years catching up to you. Then, for my 60th birthday, I could take you out and we could both move into our 60’s together. Walking through the woods with arthritic knees and ankles, bird-watching like it appears old folks have a penchant for, taking our time and growing old together. The dream would be to die together so that neither of us would have to live with the other’s absence. You see, these are the things that bounce around in my head as I think about your birthday and even feel my own life slipping through my once youthful fingers.
But I guess it’s no good rushing to imagining life apart from you just yet…cause you’re still around. And there’s something that your life does inside me that makes my living a whole lot easier. Even though you’re alive far, far away, your life still holds me together. Just the knowledge that you are moving about, taking care of mom, shepherding a small church and preparing a homily every week keeps me centered and secure. It’s funny how a dad being alive binds up a son’s life.
I’m not lying, though, when I say I hate you getting older. I hate the thought of being far away from you and missing such large chunks of life…you, mine, and me, yours. This seeing each other a few times a year and, that, only for a couple days at a time business is for the birds. I would love to live down the road from you watching your car go by when you’re heading to the store to get the paper. I would love to stroll down the shoulder of the country road with my daughters to go to grandma and grandpas for dinner on a Friday night followed by a tractor ride in the woods. I would love to see the chimney smoke ascending into the cool autumn air from across the rolling hills. I would love my daughters to get weekly horsy rides on your knees, hearing you laugh and sing circus songs all the while tossing them back and forth with grandfatherly affection. There are many things that I wish for, and yet, life has not unfolded so badly, right?
I do have much to be thankful for, that’s for sure. In the times that I do see you, my cup is filled up to overflowing. You have no idea what remains in my heart for days as I drive away or watch you drive away after a short reunion. As a son, I reflect on my conversations with you, rehashing the things you shared and the voice you shared them with. I remember the cheesy jokes and the lines on your face. I beat myself up for either not asking you more questions or not listening hard enough when you were sharing.
Sometimes, when I’m driving home from Oswego and the rest of the car is napping, my remembrances will bring tears to my eyes simply because I know that our times together are few and far between, and as a son, I’m on my own again. Sometimes I don’t feel old enough to do what I’m doing. I wonder if I’m in over my head. I question my abilities to carry out such noble responsibilities. The farther I move away from your presence, the easier it is for me to doubt my capacity to bear up under the weight of manhood. I know that you think I’m much stouter of heart than you, but the honest truth is that I find a great deal of the strength I exhibit in the steadfastness of your heart.
When I see the faithfulness of your life, your simple love for broken people, and your loyalty to one community…it bolsters my heart with a peace that carries me along. The older I get, the more I realize that the best and the biggest parts of who I am are rooted in you and your investment in my life. I lean on those formative years of training and modeling where you showed us what it looked like to please God. You didn’t do it with pretension and pride, you lived with a simple and humble heart…you still do.
It is that simple and humble life that I am most desiring to emulate as I husband my wife, father my children and pastor my congregation. I’ve always admired the way you take such joy in the small things of life. You’ve always been thankful for what you have, whether little or great. I just don’t remember you complaining hardly at all growing up, though I’m sure you faced many circumstances that warranted some negativity. That just wasn’t you.
There are so many things about you that flood my memory as I honor your life right now. So many sacrifices. So many small and thankless deeds. So many silent contributions. So many timely words given at critical moments in my life. So many long hours of hard work to provide for our family. So many taxing seasons of life. So many huge decisions. So many temptations you’ve overcome. So many nights of tucking us in and praying with us. So much money spent for our enjoyment. So many tireless hours of parenting. So many disappointments that you’ve pressed through. I could go on and on.
I’m just so grateful that you’re my father. I could never write a long enough letter or think up good enough words to represent the feelings pounding in my heart right now, but I hope my life is being lived as a “Thank You” letter for all that you’ve done for me and been to me. All the lives I touch and all the love I spread is a result of your fathering. I hope I can continue to make you proud as I seek to pour out into others what you beautifully poured into me.
I love you, Dad. I hope you can sit back and take joy in the life you’ve lived, because that’s what I’m doing today and it’s quite a life to remember. Happy 60th Birthday.
Your indebted son…