It’s has become the most valuable thing I possess.
For the first time in his 70-years, my dad sent me a brief letter inside of his Christmas card. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, but people still me send Christmas cards even though they know I don’t celebrate. I don’t mind. It’s the thought that matters to me. Someone taking the time to sit down to send you a card or to write a quick note is always a delightful treat.
But a letter, especially one from an aging parent, is better than gold these days.
My dad has been through a lot in his life, and we’ve experienced a lot of things together. He’s done some good stuff, and when I was younger, he’s also been an asshole, but we’re way past that now. I was child; I have forgiven and forgotten his flawed parenting. It didn’t take the pandemic to appreciate and cherish my dad before now. As time passes, friends and spouses come and go, and our children grow up and start having children and families of their own, we have more time to sit down and reflect on your own life.
As most of us age, we think about things we could have done better, choices we did and didn’t make, things you wished you could’ve said, and things you wished you could have taken back. We also reflect about our time on this earth. Our time is finite, and it’s something we can’t get back, no matter how many clothes, hair implants, lifts and tucks, creams, butters, jellies, pills, or surgical procedures pharma creates for us to consume to help us cheat time. It’s simply impossible to rollback the clock to reclaim time misspent.
But every now and then, we may get a second chance, do-overs, and fresh starts. I feel my dad has spent his entire life making up for things he didn’t do, time that wasn’t spent, and prioritizing family to make sure we all know we are special to him. His letter came at a time when I wasn’t feeling well, making it even more special to me. I’m grateful for my dad. So often he calls me to help him with things like when he’s trying to use Zoom (Lord have mercy, lol), if there is some legal stuff he doesn’t understand, and most frequently, when there is some thought he’s had and he just wants to run it by me to see what I think because he trusts my opinion.
I was he and stepmoms cleaning and disinfectant supply plug this year. I made sure they had what they needed, mailing everything from gloves and masks, to shield, to cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer back home so he could be safe. I didn’t want him to be without. I know the government didn’t care about us and we were on our own. Our family came together and did what we needed to do remotely, and we all survived.
None of us have had Covid. None of us have been sick. Most of us remained gainfully yet sporadically employed and in positions to help each other out when they needed it. We all were blessed. I know many people are struggling right now. My dad remained sober and his mental health remained in excellent condition, which was a big concern for me. My dad and I communicated less frequently this year because he stayed on the road working so much.
But we still thought about each other. When we couldn’t talk, I’d send him a text to let him know I was thinking about him. He did the same. I’m a loner and don’t call folks much. Those who know me know I’ll disappear for weeks and months, but when we catch up, it’s just like old times, dad included.
The Holidays Are Special For Him
My dad loves the holidays. He loves them because when he was younger they weren’t good. He always made sure my kids, and I had wonderful holiday gifts, good old home cooked Southern foods, and he made sure we all stayed connected, even when we didn’t want to. My dad didn’t have any of that coming up and I sense he missed it, which is why it’s so important to him now. With the death of his mother two years ago and the pandemic, this year has been especially difficult. His family can’t gather, so we have more time to sit around and reflect on time we’ve had, and the remaining time we have left. We’re all doing the best we can and controlling the few things we can within our power.
We connect the best we can now.
Our family did our first ever Zoom Family Thanksgiving Dinner online, and everyone was quite pleased with the event, so we’re doing the same for Christmas. I could not care less if I saw folks on these days, but I know for my dad, Christmas is linked to him attempting to reclaim time he doesn’t have anymore. I also know he loves and appreciates his kids. He tells us all the time he’s proud of all his kids.
My brother is an Air Force Desert Storm vet. He served 5-years in the military. My sister will retire next year, having given 24-years of her life to the Air Force. Me, well, I’m the rebel and the glue who held it all together. I’m a businesswoman/caretaker the family. When the family needs, I step and do what needs to be done. My siblings and I don’t bother nobody and we don’t ask for nothin, and my dad loves us because we’ve tried our best not to make our burdens his.
He shared his gratitude during our last Zoom meeting. He’s helped his nieces and nephews out of binds he’s never had to worry about with us, so he’s proud. It feels good to make your parents proud.
I’m Grateful For My Dad’s Time
Over the last few years we’ve dealt with the passing of his mom, his estrangement from his siblings, and now estrangement from his kids. We’re all trying to cope the best way we can. My dad could be tinkering with the hundreds of tools in his little backyard shed. He could be fixing on his old race car with those mechanic skills. He could be chatting with old friends from church on the phone or reading his bible as he likes to do most days. Instead, my dad sat down to write me a letter.
The time my dad and I have spent over the years fishing and doing many things has been a blast. He’s so set in his ways and so independent, I always cherish when he spends time with me. People give their time to and talents to things and people they love. Spending time with parents because they’re old and ailing or unable to care for themselves is not the same as spending quality time with one another because they want to be with adult children, so I’m glad I’ve had the privilege of spending time with my dad before his health declines. With Covid and his age, I don’t know how much more time either of us will have.
I’m grateful for his time with me.
I’m Grateful For His Letter
I’m grateful for my dad’s letter because he’s told me exactly how he feels about me before he feels about me. It’s important that to me because he did it before he possibly loses his mind because of some dreadful disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. I’m glad that he thought enough about me and of me to grace his thoughts on paper for me to keep as long as I live. His letter shows me he’s reflecting over his life and mines. He’s thinking about his life as a parent, and even some of his regrets (like being absent because of my mom’s spiteful behavior). It’s also a little funny, because it reads as if he thinks he’s Abraham Lincoln or George Washington, which cracks me up a bit.
I love my dad, and I’m gonna cherish this letter forever.
His letter reads:
To My Oldest Child,
I just wanted to say happy holiday to you in a special way. This time of the year reminds me of the times when you were a little girl. You were one of a kind. You was a happy little girl, not a whole lot to say, but you enjoyed the toys that Santa Claus brought you. How every since these days generations have passed. I’m thankful for you and wish that you could have all the Christmases back that I was absent from you. I wish all the best for you from here on. Just know you mean the world to me and daddy loves you. Just take care of yourself. I’ll talk to you soon.
Love Dad & Jeanette
It’s rare dads do stuff like this, especially if your parents are old school or perhaps didn’t have anyone writing them letters of affirmation and/or love. I’m going to write my dad letters a few times per month just to share some of my thoughts about my life and my time with him so he can reread them when he feels lonely or when he thinks about us. The days are getting shorter; the world is getting crazier, and the saying about no one being promised tomorrow is real and relevant. My dad sharing his feelings about me makes me full. I can feel his love three state away.
I’m grateful to see my dad come full circle in his life to go from working and caring for others to sitting, resting, reflecting and sharing his love. Even apologizing for time lost between us is beautiful. I’m grateful for it all.
I know the letter is just a few words on a piece of piece paper, but they mean so much to me. I’m grateful to have made it through this year. This letter serves as a burst of energy to help me get through the next one. It’s surely going to get worse for us Black folks before it gets better. Too often the world is busy slandering, dividing, bossing, and berating Black people, so we gotta take time to uplift each other.
We build each other up to prepare for the next breakdown. I’ll be using my dad’s letter over the next few months to help me through all we’re going through. He’s seen and experienced so much as a Black man living in America. If he can survive it and still be grateful, so can I.
Wishing all the fathers a wonderful holiday season, and if you have never sent your kid (s) a love letter, send one this year. We ain’t got shit else to do. You should be in the house anyway. Buy a tablet or just use some printer paper and get started. Let your kids know how you feel about them while you’re still have a sound mind and a healthy body, grand kids too. Share with them what’s on your mind. Let your children know dad is human. So often we see men as superheros, strong, powerful and insensitive. Life is short and no one is promised tomorrow. Dads, there is power in your words and your memories. Black fathers matter.
For me, my family and all my friends survived 2020. We have about 2 more weeks to go, but I think we’re going to make it. My dad loves me enough to sit down and write me a letter. It’s one of the simplest ways for him to express his love, and I’m so grateful. I’m cherishing this letter for as long as I live. It’s priceless to me.
Happy holidays everyone. We survived even though our government tried to kill us. If our elders can make it, so can we.
Be safe our here ya’ll.
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To learn a little more about me and my dad’s relationship and to help you fill in the blanks, you may enjoy these essays: