To my dad:
You’ve been gone so long, it’s hard to remember what your voice sounded like, or even what you looked like. It’s only through photos that I know you were a dashing, dark-haired young man, which is how you caught my mother’s eye, who matured to a handsome older man, albeit balding, with a slight pot belly.
I remember how patient you were with us three girls … and mom. You never let us say bad words, not even the silly word “icky.” Swearing simply was not tolerated, so we girls devised phrases like “oh, fudge” to pass your expletive test.
We knew you for your “putzing.” You kept yourself busy and did things for our family without much fanfare.
You had a soft whistle, a tune only you knew, that you used often. I heard it for years in my head, never quite able to reproduce it myself. And now, so many years later, it’s hard to even remember that melodic phrase.
I would guess that you whistled the tune often because you were content with your life, your family and the world in general.
Some people would call you a simple man, but then you never asked much of this world, never expected too much of anyone to be disappointed, and never found fault with others who might have disappointed you.
I don’t know how many Father’s Day cards you received from us girls, but I would guess had you not gotten any at all you would still have appreciated us.
There’s just one thing. I know you loved us because of the way you took care of our home, the way you faithfully got up each morning around 6 a.m. and headed off to work in an often cold roundhouse.
I know you loved us because you loved our mother and treated her with great respect.
But, dear dad, I don’t ever remember hearing you say the words.
Not to me, not to my sisters, not even to my mom. I’m sorry that it was so difficult to say, I guess we knew it without the words, but dad, I really needed to hear it from you, all children do.
Here comes another Father’s Day without you. If you were here I’d say, “I love you, dad.”
Perhaps you needed to hear that too.
— MaryHelen Swanson is editor of the ECM Post Review