These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

a letter to my dad

i wanted to include this letter i wrote to my dad. i wrote it here in michigan and e-mailed it to my sister, who in turn printed it. my mom couldn't read it, nor could the hospice nurse. so chaplain don french came over to the house and read it to dad. when we went down to see dad and met up with don french, he said the letter talked about life and not death, which was good. he wanted a copy of it. later, at the rosary my mom read this letter outloud. here is the letter i wrote to my dad in case we didn't get a final chance to visit him before he died.

Hey Pops,
It’s hard starting this letter. It’s something I’d rather do in person. Something I’d rather not want to do at all. I wish I didn’t have to.
You know, pop, I love you very much. I’ve told you countless times. But I want you to say it again.
As I sit here today with the sun shining and the leaves moving around now that they’ve fallen, I think of you and everything you ever did for me. There’s been so much. You helped me became who I am, what I am. I don’t know if you really ever thought about it, but you have. I thank you for it.
With college you did more for me than you might think. You gave me so many rides back and forth, early mornings, picking me up at weird times. Remember when I’d spend afternoons there at the airport waiting for a class? When it was time, you drove me to class and went back to the airport and waited until I got out of class. Then you picked me up and we’d go home. Thank you for all of those times. Without you, none of it would have been possible.
And when I started working at the Alice Echo, you continued to give rides whenever you could or pick me up when I didn’t have a ride back. You are a good man, pop. You are so patient. That’s one of the best qualities about you, pop. You never complained, never.
You’ve provided for the family during good and bad times. You have always made sure we had food on the table and a home. Those are very important things. You always put your family first and made sure your family had what it needed. That’s a sign of a caring man, unselfish and honorable.
And you loved us all in your own way, quiet but powerful.
You showed me so many things about the ranch and about cattle. I’m sorry I was never much of a rancher, but I learned so much. You were a great teacher. Remember building the fences at Lucinda’s? That was hard, especially when we hit caliche. Or when we built that pipeline at the other ranch near San Diego? There was an area that was so hot where the road curved that no wind blew or hit us. Later we ended up making barbecue. We used mom’s meat cutting board, the old one she had and we really did a bad job of messing it. But we made good carne asada.
And the papalotes? We fixed so many of them. Si no eran las vaquetas eran le cilindro. You would get up to the top and tie a rope around the flecha to make sure it wouldn’t turn. Que bravo eres, padre. Or when we had to take out las varillas. If they were wooden, it was okay. But if they were steel, we had to take the pipes out, too.
I remember one time when I was about 19 or 20, we had to fix the windmill at the ranch near San Diego. I was hung over. Muchas cervezas. You made me get up and work to fix the windmill early in the morning. It hurt to get up. I remember drinking a lot of water and I kept sweating it out.
You know so much about cattle, too. You could have gotten a degree. You know more than most people about cows, pop. That always impressed me. You knew when they were pregnant or going to have a baby or when they couldn’t have the baby. You could track them when they didn’t come to eat or you’d call them with that special call you always had, " andele, vengaze!" you’d shout. And they’d come. It always impressed me.
The earliest memory I have of you, pop, is when you rented the Chiva. I was a little kid and Pempo was with you. I must have been four years old. We went in the old truck that’s parked at the ranch, the one with the camper or maybe it was the big brown truck. You were driving and I was sitting in the middle. Pempo was on the passenger side. We got there and you got out of the truck to look for a missing cow. I remember staying in the truck with Pempo. I stood up in the seat because I was so small. I was worried because you disappeared into the monte but Pempo said you’d come back. And you did. Me gusta esa memoria porque tiene los dos, tu y Pempo.
I learned a lot from you. When I write stories I use some of what you taught me. You are a good teacher, pop.
I know I didn’t stay at the ranch, but I know you are still proud of me. I’m happy in Michigan in my home with Dawn. It’s a beautiful place. I know you liked it a lot when you and mom visited. I still love that picture that Dawn took of us watching the lake. I took Noel there so he could see it, too.
I am where I am today because of you. It was you who helped me get here. It was sad when we left but I know you are proud of me like I am proud of you.
I think you’re one of the smartest people I know pop. Es la pura experiencia. You make me proud to call you my father.
I don’t get to see you like Linda or Noel does every day or week or month, but I think about you every day, every hour and I think of how much love I have for you. Know that. I might not be there but I think about you all the time and I talk about you all the time.
We are going to be down there for Thanksgiving, pop. It will be good to see everyone again. It will be good to see you again. But please if you are hurting, hurting a lot, it’s okay. You don’t have to wait for us to arrive. Everything will be okay. We’ll take care of mom. We’ll take care of the ranch and the house and the cattle. It’ll be okay, pop. Everything’s going to be okay.
I miss you so much, but it’ll be okay. If you feel you need to go, it’s okay. You are always in my heart and in my memories. You are the strongest person I know, pop.
I love you very much, more than you can ever know


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