17 June 2012

67 Pounds of Paper




Today is Father's Day.  This means a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, it means spending part of my day reading letters. A giant tub of my father's letters.

Without fail, my father wrote me a letter every day from when I was age thirteen to the time he died when I was twenty. If I break that down month by month, day by day, it comes out to somewhere close to 3,500 pieces of mail. Most of which are gone now. All but 67 pounds.

I realize the concept of a parent writing to their child every day, even while that child is in the same room, might be odd to some people (which it is), while others might think it was an endearing habit that made it easier for a single father to communicate with his teenage daughter (which it was). But here is the thing you have to understand: it wasn’t just me. He wrote everyone. When he died, some people took it upon themselves to send his letters back to me so I could read what he had written to them years earlier. As if I had never seen his words before. They had no clue their letter, so lovingly tucked away all those years, was barely a drop in the bucket.

A while back, one of my mother’s sisters gave me a saran wrapped pile of letters he had sent to my maternal Grandfather in the mid 1980’s. This is what I found:

Clink (yes, I had a grandfather with a badass nickname like Clink)

Friday we went to visit my mother. She is doing fine. Her grand-nephew and wife and 3 year-old son are in from Florida. They are annoying and their child is poorly behaved. It makes The Potato (that’s me) look like an angel by comparison, for which I am very thankful. She is old enough now to recognize that nobody likes a screamer. This goes on for four pages describing a children’s birthday party in a thunderstorm and the logistics of transporting someone’s triplet toddlers in car seats and something about buying a briefcase in an airport.

Will write more tomorrow.
Tomorrow? Seriously, Dad, what more did you have to say?

Apparently, a lot...

 
Brown ink was one of his favorite things. I do not recall ever seeing him without a fountain pen clipped to the front of his shirt, ready to jot something down on a legal pad. Sometimes he would fall asleep with it is still clipped to the front of his shirt. This meant all of our sheets and furniture were peppered with ink stains. It drove my mother nuts.

My father and his traveling stack of writing papers, taking a break with Belly Dancer in 1971.
Note the fountain pen clipped to his shirt front. 

Letters. Letters. Letters....

To my mother. To his mother. To my mother’s father and his children. To anyone with whom he loved or cared about or had a bone to pick with, letters were his way of communicating what was left unspoken.

To his clients, sending them brief, friendly notes attached to little newspaper clippings:  
I know you like the Colts. Thought this might be of interest. I’ll call next week about that thing we talked about last time.

To his old frat buddies, passing their latest sports quips and dirty jokes via fax machine: 
Here, I got one for you: How do you know if a fax came from a blonde? Answer: There is a stamp on it.
What did the earthworm say when he saw his own ass? A: Hey! Are you my brother?

To the IRS agent who conducted his audit, accompanied by a check made out to “Uncle Sam”, (which from the looks of the copy, appears to have been cashed anyway):  
Thanks for being so nice about it. Next time I need a foot up my butt,  I’ll know just who to call.

To the grocery store, furiously informing them that they sold him 3 pounds of dangerously old hamburger meat: 
I’ll still shop there because you employ that kid with the flipper arms so I know you are good people.



Letter writing was a habit he picked up in the army.

Apparently there is, or was, some superstition about soldiers writing home those who did not write their wives and girlfriends were always the first selected for combat, or worse the soldiers who did not write their mothers were always the first to get killed in action. That sounds like a ridiculous superstition, but I tell you, on the few occasions I have mentioned it to folks in service their reactions have indicated there might be some spooky truth to it. There are some traditions I do not question.

My father, who was pathologically superstitious, credited this notion for saving his life as it was his constant and unflappable letter writing that landed him a "kooshy desk job" (his words, not mine) writing letters to the families of dead and missing soldiers in Vietnam. His duty was to consolidate fractured, chaotic, sometimes gruesome field notes and blend them into an informative document that would tell the story of each man’s death or disappearance. The end result was to be a factual account of their final moments, but, as he described it, "wholesome enough you could post on a church bulletin board."

He said that like it was something to be proud of. Like it was the best thing he could offer. And maybe it was, but I could tell by just by looking at him, talking about those letters rattled him. I think those letters scared him. I think he tried to bury those letters with all the other letters to everyone else, including the 3,500 letters he sent to me. 

I don't think it worked.


 
It started following an all-night marathon of The Twilight Zone. I forced myself to stay up to watch so I would sleep in the car on the long drive to summer camp something I had been dreading for months. My camping experience already included a three-day excursion in a cabin with my fifth grade classmates; but this was different. This was several weeks living with strangers. And not only was not a regular camping experience, this was a “Healthy Lifestyle Summer Experience.”

Read: fat camp.*

OK, so I was a chubby kid. I am a chubby adult (or as I prefer to think, fluffy). And while I have never been skinny, I can tell you, I never felt as fat as the day I arrived at that camp, ten years old, stripped nearly naked, and stood on a scale in front of three grown men and was asked, When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
*My thoughts on those weeks could fill a book, but as this is a father’s day post I will digress. Sufficient to say, if you are considering sending your child to fat camp, you should be taking notes from here on in, as you, my friend, will have some making up to do.

So, where was I? Yes... I stayed up all night watching the Twilight Zone so I would sleep in the car on the way up. Before we left, as I sat on a stool in the kitchen yawning and chomping my way through a low-calorie carnation breakfast bar, my dad reached around from behind and slipped an envelope in my front shirt pocket. The outside read Open Upon Arrival.

Four hours later I opened it to find a $10 bill and note reminding me to brush my teeth, take lots of pictures, and, Be nice to the other girls. I MEAN IT.

That was the first letter. That was the beginning.

If you have ever gone to an overnight summer camp you probably remember what a highlight it was to receive mail. Maybe they passed it out at your bunk every night or called up each camper one-by-one in front of the cafeteria, as it was in my case. The first lunchtime mail call ushered the arrival of 13 letters scattered among 200 campers. Eleven of them were for me. Eleven. All of them from my dad. Most of them mailed a week before I left. None of the other kids got a letter every day, and he knew it would give me something to gloat about. At some point I sent one back in return – a postcard made from a painting of a purple mountain I made in the arts and crafts cabin. That postcard was propped up on his desk for years and eventually migrated to his wallet for the rest of his life. Had I known, I would have spent more time on it.

In addition to his own letters, he asked other people to write me as wellfamily members, friends, even my teacher back at school. One time he got a former business partner on vacation in Hawaii to send me a postcard. I don’t remember what it said, but I do remember the front had a picture of girl in a bikini. I can’t tell you how insensitive it is to send pictures of skinny girls in bikinis to a ten-year old in a fat camp, but I can tell you, that if your spazzoid bunk mate sees it, she is likely to freak out and tell the cabin counselor you are hiding pornography. I speak from experience on this front. 

Two years later the local high school lost its college accreditation and we started looking at other schools. Private schools. Prep schools. Alternative schools. The idea of selling the house and moving to a better school district was discussed, but when Jenny a former playmate who once bit the hand off my cabbage patch dollbecame pregnant at age twelve, the leisurely search for a local private school ended and the urgent search for a boarding school began. As luck would have it, my cousins who had just moved to Saudi Arabia had already selected a viable option. With great sadness and a couple rounds of hysterics, I left for school.He said it would be just like camp, only longer.  Your cousins will be there and I will write you every day.

But I’ll miss my pets.
   I’ll send pictures.


But I’ll hate the food.
   I’ll send you packages with snacks and all that crap you eat.


What about my clothes?
   Calm down. You have too many clothes already. If you need something in particular, I can stuff it in an envelope.


Can you put the cats in envelopes?
   Keep your grades up and we’ll talk about it.




Boarding school was a lot like camp, only fancier and the adult figures didn’t ditch the kids to smoke pot behind the cafeteria after dinner. The mail was delivered through a series of slots on our lockers each day at 11am, so that when you went to put your books away for lunch, the moment the locker door was opened, the letter would fall to the ground. It wasn’t as ceremonial as having your name called aloud before the cafeteria but it was still a big deal. A silent competition. There were girls who would avoid opening their (likely-to-be-empty) lockers in front of other people for fear they would look unpopular, while others would peep through the delivery slot to check for mail, and if it was there, purposely delay opening the locker door until others were within eyesight to witness the envelope falling on the floor.  I let mine pile up and then read it when I got bored.

Hi Potato,
Well, I bet you are planning your itinerary for your brief visit home. I am sure that on the way from the airport you will want to stop for dinner at El Torito...




Typical letters included subtitled mini essays such as What Was for Dinner Tuesday and Mrs. Miller’s New Driveway and Guess Who I saw at The Post Office Yesterday, Your Third Grade Teacher With The Lisp Whose Name I Cannot Recall , each with a lengthy description of the encounter and how it would be different if I was there to experience it in person.

When that got old, he started writing letters on behalf of our pets. Our cocker spaniel Fitzgerald wrote regularly about how much the cats hated him and how he wished I would come home to keep them away. Of course, Fitzgerald wrote in an Irish brogue with very distinctive handwriting.


Not to be outdone, our two indoor cats, Sam and Harriet, sent cards and letters as well, complaining about how the food was not mashed up enough since my leaving, and, When you come back, can you please bring us some tuna fish?


There was also a slew of feral cats whom I had taken to feeding, most of them traveling vagabonds, and all of them named after my favorite early eighties television stars. He couldn’t come up with their names and personalities in my absence, but made sure to make their presence known via postcards from across the country. After all, they were traveling souls. One time a postcard came with one side featuring a photo of the iconic Flamingo casino in Las Vegas, the other side read: You should see the litter box! –Meredith Baxter.

We could go months without speaking, but letters were different. There were always letters. And cards. And postcards. And brown paper parcels. Thick padded envelopes stuffed with individually wrapped snacks were a frequent occurrence. Sometimes they were nothing more than an envelope stuffed with a comic strip clipping, or a page from the Sears catalog with pictures of pants scribbled with, Tell me again, which one do I need to order?...but every day, without fail, he would send me something.  Even over summer vacation he would continue to write and save up the envelopes in a paper bag to be deposited in a mailbox one week before my departure so I would arrive at school to a mountain of mail. 

Timing was important.  

In late August, five weeks before my birthday, he purchased a book of Happy Birthday postcards. Without my knowledge, he stamped them and sealed the cards in envelopes addressed to family friends across the country with a note asking them each to write something and drop them in a mailbox on a particular date, that way they would arrive on my birthday.  
I cannot be there in person this year so please help to make her feel special in my absence.
Sure enough when my birthday came, that locker rained birthday cards for a week. 




College is when things got weird. His business had failed and his health was not good. My mother was long dead and there was no one around to keep him steady. The letters stopped coming from the family pets and started coming from my childhood imaginary friend, Ralph, who wrote detailed accounts of attending Shaggiest Dog competitions on the beach with Fitzgerald, which sounded sort of like a Girls Gone Wild wet T-shirt contest in Fort Lauderdale, but with ugly dogs instead of drunken sorority girls. 

Look, I said it got weird. 



When I was 19 he was diagnosed with cancer. What he thought was an infected tooth was actually a rampant abscess caused by squamous cell carcinoma. Within two weeks of diagnosis, they surgically removed most of this throat and part of his jaw and tongue. When he lost the ability to eat or speak his notes became his only mode of communication. I had already moved in so there wasn’t anywhere to mail the envelopes, but just the same, he refused to stop writing. Simple comments or requests for assistance became lengthy essays on household goods.
Can you fetch my extra strong reading glasses? In the kitchen...
turned into... 
When you get older and need reading glasses don’t start out with the strongest prescription, start with a low number or you will get dependent too quick and you will have to use them when you want to read a simple recipe.
...and then he'd grab a notebook and bury his head for twenty minutes scribbling the recipe for tuna casserole, which only has three ingredients but took eight pages to accommodate a diatribe on oil-packed tuna and a love song to egg noodles.
Don’t forget to add some crushed pretzels as the top. It’s the little things that matter most!



In late August, five weeks before my twenty first birthday, I sat on the end of his bed frantically rifling through his possessions. The time had come and gone. The hospital chaplain, who was now sitting in an armchair in the corner, passing gas with little fanfare or apology, informed me that, The nurses will box up everything and send it to the house. No need to worry. Just go home and take care of yourself. Just go home. Be at peace.

I remember those words specifically because they were so poorly chosen. Clearly, I was anything but peaceful. I was frantic. Not upset, not crying just frantic. Searching...

What are you looking for?
He asked.

A Letter. There should be a letter. He was fine when I checked in this morning. He didn’t die until 2:30. Mail gets picked up at 4. There should be at least one letter. WHERE IS THE LETTER...

The chaplain sheepishly admitted he had seen a stack on the nightstand. I didn't want the cleaning crew to toss them aside so I put my own stamps on them and dropped them in the mailbox just before you arrived. I'm so sorry, I had no idea they were important.


Five weeks later, on my 21st birthday, I received not one, but 76 letters, cards and notes. Not from my father, but nearly everyone in his address book.




From his fraternity brother Rich, who I had not seen since I was five, and who I had not thought to call to tell him his old friend was dead, wrote inside a unicorn Hallmark card, Your Dad tells me you could use an extra round of wishes this year. Happy Birthday Kiddo!

From his second cousin, I received a note from your dad half an hour after Little Alice called to tell me the news. I'm sorry this birthday will be bittersweet, but I want you to know I am thinking of you.

On and on...76 times over. Enough to fill a shoebox.

The notes inside are all about my birthday, but the only time I let myself look at them is on Fathers Day when I look at the other 67 pounds of letters I have left. I’m ashamed to admit how many thousands of his letters I never saved, but I don’t think he ever intended me to treasure his words as I do today. Because that is what Dads do they don’t expect much in return. They don’t focus on the sentimental. They don’t like being the center of attention. The whole concept of Father’s Day made my father uncomfortable. Why should you buy me something I don’t need? Why give me a card when you can tell me in person? Calm down. Read a book. Eat some ice cream. Watch television. Be happy. That’s the best thing you could ever give me. 

It is fitting that this card might have been the first letter I ever wrote. Happy Father's Day. I love you Daddy.


Update 16 hours after posting: I wrote this post in a hurry yesterday (Father’s Day) after looking through the box – an emotional undertaking, as you can imagine. I needed to vent, and, honestly, I didn’t think many people would click past the “read on” after the first few paragraphs, and I certainly did not expect it to resonate with some folks the way it did (per your comments: I’m so sorry if this made you cry. Talk about a bummer way to start a Monday! Yeesh.)

All I was hoping to say is that sometimes a lifetime of small actions add up to something much bigger than any one-time gesture. Parents (moms AND dads) don’t get thanked often enough for all the everyday mundane responsibilities they take on when kids come in the picture. Since I couldn’t pick up the phone and tell my Dad how much I appreciated “the little things”, it made me feel better to tell all of you. Thanks for listening :)


96 comments:

  1. Oh Cheryl, what a wonderful thing to say. You are too kind. I am glad you enjoyed :)

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  2. Dear Aunt Peaches,

    This is an absolutely incredible post. I just found your site yesterday, and became an instant fan of your art and your writing. I was not expecting such a beautiful story. 76 letters. What a unique human being and wonderful father you had. His blessings live on through you, and through your taking the time to share his life work with us.

    Thank you. It's the longest blog post I've ever read, and I loved every word.
    peace.

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  3. That was beautiful. You made me cry, not as much with sadness, but with the pure beauty of that blog post, no, not blog post... letter. You may not write letters like your father did, but you write here, where we all can enjoy the subtle beauty of your pictures and words, and where, one day, someone can remember you by reading these entries. Thank you. Your father seems magical, and I'm sure he was cherished and loved.

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  4. PLEASE WRITE A NOVEL! i just read this post as voraciously as an fiction i have ever read. your story is beautiful. What a dad, you had. thank you

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  5. How blessed you were. Thank you for letting me know your father.

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  6. It's nice to know that you had a wonderful father too. Mine woke me up everyday and made me a five course breakfast. He felt that I needed to eat well before school and later work, so that I could use my brain to its highest capacity, with out a rumble in my tummy. Even if I was grouchy in the morning, there it was, the table set and the sound of the juice being stirred and the eggs frying in the pan and the toast and jam, cereal already in the bowl, and my vitamin pill set out before me as though I was royalty. The smell of the coffee brewing and the unmistakable scent of perfectly cooked bacon wafting through the air. This was something he did every single day without any fan fare or complaints. I miss him in so many ways, I can't express. He was the best father a girl like me could have wished for, he taught me how to love.
    Thanks for your story, it means a lot to me.

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  7. I didnt read this when you posted it..... just reading it now and crying at the computer hoping my kids dont come in and see me and wonder why their crazy mom is crying at the computer!

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  8. "....Because that is what Dads do -- they don’t expect much in return....." SPOT ON!

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  9. This has to be the most moving thing I have ever read. It made me cry! What a wonderful Dad!

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  10. A father never stop loving his children, love so much that no one can ever replace.

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  11. What a lovely 67 pound treasure your Dad left you! Thank you for sharing your life with us. I feel as if I really knew your Father now.

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  12. Holy crap. I knew you could write but this. THIS. is amazing.

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  13. Truly beautiful and moving... Thanks for sharing.

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  14. This made me laugh and cry so much.

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  15. what a wonderful, sweet story...darn it.

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  16. This is one of the most beautiful things I've read in a long time. It made me laugh and cry at the same time. It touched me really deeply and made me think a lot about my mother.
    Thank you!

    p.s.: You really should consider to write a novel, you're incredibly talented!

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  17. I can't even handle this! Cursing myself for reading this at work - desk-sobbing is not attractive, man. Thank you for sharing. Even though he sent you to "Healthy Lifestyle" camp and boarding school, it's clear your dad loved you bunches. That's not something many people can claim. I'm sorry you lost him so early.

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  18. I think he probably knew!

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  19. Ditto on the book-writing

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  20. Your Dad was an early blogger, I think, with no worldly platform to share his enthusiastic insight. As S.A.R.K. once said, "...letters are missiles of love..." - or something like that. What treasures you hold! This is your most beautiful piece, ever, and who to thank?

    I, too, lost my Dad to cancer, thirty-five years ago; he is often featured on my own blog. Many years of utter anguish transformed into his ever-presence in my heart and soul. Each year, I bake his favorite b'day cake and celebrate his life. For Father's Day, I share self-propagating French Lilacs, Holly Trees and Hens 'n' Chicks, as a living tribute. The originals all came from my Dad's gardens.

    Peaches, it was a pleasure to meet your Dad. I'd love to share some garden treasures with you... and your Dad.

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  21. As usual I'm the last to know... only just read this and I cried a few rivers throughout.
    After your post describing your Mum I thought I had you figured out ("so, THAT is where she gets it!") but geez... I couldn't have made up your Dad in my wildest dreams.
    He must have loved you so much, I can't even imagine the enormity of it. Nobody likes a screamer, eh? That on made me chuckle with delight.
    Wouldn't surprise me if he already had templates of letters to the grandkids on his brain- or maybe, if he was around today, he'd be writing to Lola. That photo of him with Belly Dancer was what started my tears, really. My grandparents (who raised me, Grandpa died when I was 9) used to write me little notes all the time, and I could scream with frustration as they were all lost over the years. I think Grandpa used to call me apple slice and the German word for mosquito, Muecke. Sort of in the same league as potato, me thinks. I wonder if parental (or grand- parental) love inspires name- calling and note- writing?
    Another post that makes me wish you'd write a book or ten. I could read this stuff all day long and probably stay up all night, too. Man, you couldn't make it up! The last thing I read that was anywhere near this... touching (excuse the lame word, but it DOES touch me) was when I discovered Midnight in the garden of good and evil by John Berendt. Another set of characters you just couldn't make up, so unreal they HAVE to be real.
    Do the world a favour and write books. Many, many books. 'nuff said.

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  22. Thank you for your moving words!

    My dad is kind of known for his letters... not nearly as many as your father wrote. Today I look at my own letters from my father in a different light. Thank you!

    Have a great day!

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  23. What a wonderful post, you had me laughing and wiping away some tears thanks for sharing.

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  24. Reading this made me cry. I am one of the cousins that Aunt P went to school with, and I was the fortunate recipient of so many of her dad's letters and packages myself. When we moved to Saudi Arabia, he would leave the TV on and turn on the VCR and mail us packages of American sitcoms and Star Trek episodes, and he never failed to include a long, beautiful letter that we passed around as a link to our old lives. These days, I have to work to remember the sound of his voice but I would know his handwriting anywhere. Thanks for sharing this.

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  25. I rarely read a piece as long as this one, but today I did. I am so glad that I took the time. What a treasure! This story would make a wonderful book. I have only a few things my dad wrote and I treasure them. I can't imagine having all those memories written down. I can't type because I can't see the screen through the tears. God Bless you and thanks for sharing this story.

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  26. Thanks for sharing.
    Not only the letters, but your talent to move people to tears or laughter is a great gift your father gave you.

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  27. I also wish you lived next door :) (Not for transcription purposes though.!)

    However, now that you mention it, I should scan some of these. Paper won't keep...

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  28. You are right -- it is a lost art. There was a window of time before email was everywhere when I tried to write at least once a week....now it's lucky if I can get a holiday card out on time. Sigh. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a revival!

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  29. You are right, I was blessed. "Fortunate" does not even begin to describe it. However, I'm sorry you had to start Monday morning with a double dose of mascara, Keely. It was not intentional!

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  30. Father's Day is especially hard when it highlights those who are missing. It's hard when they are not around to celebrate on special days, but like you said, sometimes it's the ordinary and everyday things that mean the most.
    :)

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  31. Isn't it funny how dads give so much and then when we want to give to them, it's so hard to find something. Doesn't feel fair, does it?

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  32. Goodness that is a compliment. Thanks for sayin' so ;)

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  33. You are too kind :)

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  34. I'm sorry, I promise I did not mean to make you cry!

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  35. Aww Peaches, you made my tough Texan heart melt and my tough Texan eyes all misty...

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  36. A beautiful post! I'm a genealogist, and one of the many things I collect are any kind of letters, notes, etc. I have family post card collections and my husband's grandparent's letter collection to each other from pre-WWII. I know a lot of people save emails, but I think letter writing as an art is truly lost. What wonderful gifts you have - a great dad, memories, letters, and the ability to write about them! Thanks for sharing that with us!

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  37. Speechless. What a wonderful relationship you two had. You had more of a father in twenty years and ten months than most people have in a lifetime. I wish I lived next door. I would transcribe all those letters for a book. You are in the wrong profession, Potato. You are a writer.

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  38. Thank you for telling this amazing and wonderful story about your Dad. When my Dad left us I desperately looked for old cards, letters, anything. When my Mom asked if there was anything I wanted of Dad's, I told her anything handwritten...

    Again, thank you!

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  39. I know this was a hard thing for you to write - so many bravas to you for getting it all out. What is amazing to me about your dad (besides how loving he was) is how CONNECTED he was. All those correspondents, whose lives he was part of! I am just in awe of the story, your relationship with him, and your dad as a human being.

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  40. You were a little potato and I was a bean. I too miss my dad so very much. He died when I was pregnant with his first and only granddchild. It's been many years now, and I haven't spent this much time remembering him as I have since reading your lovely story. My eyes are damp, and my heart is full of love for him once more. Thank you for your dad's story.

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  41. I don't have the words to describe how this post has made me feel.
    What gifts you've been given - both in the wonderful letters and huge love your dad had for you and the gift you have for describing that love.

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  42. What a lovely tribute to an incredible man. Thank you for sharing!

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  43. He sounds like a great man. Daddys and their little girls...
    Dang it, who's cutting up the onions in here?

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  44. Well, I had to reapply my mascara this morning. You did not have your Dad nearly as long as you should have but, you sure had to know how much you were loved. He may have written letters to many people but those extras he did to make sure you had lots of mail on your birthdays, first day of camp and when you returned to school - wow. You were blessed. What a great story to share with everyone on Father's Day. Thanks.

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  45. Good gosh. I love everything about this post. You are a terrific writer!

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  46. I cried reading it. But smiled at the same time.

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  47. A remarkable tribute to your daddy. I loved reading it. I have missed my dad on Father's Day and more for more than 40 years now. A great man who had a short life. I have missed my son in law for 7 years now. A remarkable dad who should be here raising his kids, singing lullabyes, playing, reading. Cruel twists of fate for remarkable people in my life. You remind us through our ordinary days just how special Fathers are and I appreciate your words.

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  48. I love what you've shared with us here. Thank you.

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  49. Oh my goodness. Of course I am crying. Thank you for the beautiful story. Your blog is a bit like your dads letters maybe? Thank you fior sharing a bit of your dad- it sounds like he was a very cool guy.
    (My dad would write me notes from the pets too! And- sometimes from some guy that had a crush on my mom yeras before they even met. So funny..)

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  50. The letters didn't go to me -- they went to all the other people he asked to send me letters in his place ( I think he saw the end coming). I should have made that more clear :)

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  51. You are so amazing. Thank you for this. Well worth reading, and although it did bring a tear (okay, several tears) to my eyes, it also brought really good memories of my dad and his similarly hilarious and bizarre letters, book dedications, short stories, and drawings (if you can call them that - stick figures!). I recently found one he wrote me at camp, and it was full of details about his life at home with the dog. Anyway, thanks so much. from Steph B.

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  52. You touched my heart. This is a lovely tribute to your father. Thank you for sharing.

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  53. Wow. I just got back from the other side of the country visiting with my family who I haven't seen in 18 months. My father was diagnosed with Parkinsons several years ago and has dementia. I knew from talking to him on the phone that he had gotten worse, but I was not fully prepared for the physical and mental changes he has undergone during the past 18 months. I'm 46 years old and I've been so sad and broken since I arrived home. Feeling guilty because I'm not closer to help with his care...at the same time I'm glad that I'm not because half the time he doesn't even know who we are. I "knew" my daddy would get old. I just never ever imagined I would lose "him." His mind. The memories we shared. And that's hard. It's like I'm already mourning his passing because the man I called my father is not there anymore.

    My mother and I are not close. At all. We disagree with the type of care he should be getting, so here I sit. 1800 miles away. Mourning alone.

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    1. I was the sole care giver to my mother for 6 years. She died in Dec at 93, but as she had dementia, I lost her years ago. No one understands why I am not grieving, but I already did that with every bath, every clothing change, every tantrum I witnessed for six years. Research keeps going to extend the length of life, but not the quality. Treasure the good memories. Make good memories for those you touch.

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  54. I typed a comment last night but it seems to have diappeared.

    Did you ever get the letters the chaplain had mailed?

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  55. That was amazing. Thank you!

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  56. I too am a letter writer,although not nearly as prolific as your father. I adore the idea of coordinating a mass mailing of birthday cards for a child who is away. I am borrowing it for my oldest potato who will be going to college next year. Thank you

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  57. I had to stop in the middle and come back to it later. (Didn't want to cry in public.) You had a wonderful Dad. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  58. Did you ever get the letters the chaplain mailed!!?

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  59. This is true. I forgot how much Star Trek we watched so y'all could get those boxes of VHS tapes. For a non-trekky, I speak Klingon pretty good.

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  60. What an amazingly thoughtful thing to say :) And you are right -- my father was magical, cherished and loved. I wish I had let him know that when he was alive, but I feel better knowing that you guys now know it too.

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  61. What a lovely tribute. Made me laugh out loud and shed a tear as well. Your Dad would be very proud!

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  62. Best. Post. Ever. I am so amazed at your Daddy's dedication. Inspirational. My father was very good at writing notes for my Mom on little yellow post-its and leaving them on the bathroom mirror. After he died, she collected them all and reads them occassionally. You've reminded me of what a gift that was. Thanks so much.

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  63. Cryin' at my desk. <3

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  64. My grandfather wrote to my grandmother every day. The day after he died she went into the garden and burnt them all. I've often wondered if she ever regretted it. I'm glad you kept yours x

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  65. Today I learned something from your Daddy. I've been the keeper of memories for my family for many years. Now that I'm a grandma to a precious 5 year old little boy I've been writing down the cute things he says and does, what he loves, and small snippets that would be lost in the busyness of life. I learned from your Daddy that my instincts are right. These are common moments that would be lost to time if not for the memory keepers. What your Dad did for you is simply wonderful. You've been blessed.

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  66. You are right -- I am blessed. As are your children and grandchildren. We have so much to be grateful for.

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  67. Not to mention every episode of Quantum Leap ever made

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  68. So amazing, Peaches. He was such a great man. I only every knew the half of it. Thank you for writing so honestly.

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  69. You made me cry. GOD bless you always.

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  70. Shucks :) thanks!

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  71. What a sweet reality. Thank you so much!

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  72. this is so beautiful! your father was an amazing man.

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  73. Your post matters, especially to those of us who have lost our Dad and Mom.
    I understand "keeping" things. And that changes over time too.
    Bless you, and thank you,
    Germaine

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  74. Brilliant. Seems to me your father gave you a much larger gift than fatherly love. You have a special way with words. I am immensely envious of both. Rock on Chica.

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  75. Crying like a baby in my cubicle. Thanks for this story :)

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  76. If only every child could have such a wonderful father. Your father not only passed to you a wicked funny sense of humour, but the gift of language, and the marvel of ordinary things. My daughter, too, went to boarding school for various reasons, and I want to say that your father made a huge sacrifice out of love for you, and chose your wellbeing and education over his own need to have his Sweet Potato at home with him.

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  77. OH MY!!!! What an amazing story. Yes, I cried because he was a caring and thoughtful man that took the time to express his love for you and everyone else. Some people are not good at verbal communication but can release it all with words on paper. Cherish all those memories.

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  78. Wow!!! This has to be one of the most wonderful stories I have ever heard, seriously!!!!! Dads are an amazing gift from God and your's is one of the reasons you are who YOU are today!!!!! Wow...I am just thinking of all of those precious letter and feeling jealous, lol! My parents are both gone and to see any piece of paper with their own handwriting on it is such a thrill for me, I hope you have that feeling for many, many more years to come! =) Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and personal story with us!!!!!!!!!!

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  79. Wow! What a wonderful story!!!! Your dad was an amazing man and is part of the reason you are as fabulous as you are today! =) Thank you so much for sharing this story with us all, I will always remember it, never have I heard anything like it...it is just amazing to me!!! LOVE that he called you Potatoe!!!! =)

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  80. I never knew my father, so I love to read and know stories about other people's dads, thanks for sharing. You and your dad are awesome sauce in my book.

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  81. That was amazing, thanks for sharing. Makes me wish I knew my father.

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  82. Randomly stumbled across this, starting from a pic from pinterest. Thanks for sharing your story. You were loved. That's for sure.

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  83. It's movie material, if you ask me. Your dad was a wonderful person!!! <3

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  84. I wish my dad cared for me as much. We've always had a difficult relationship and still do. But at least he's still here. Bless you.

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  85. I cant see!!! i'm still crying!!! You are so very blessed. Thank You!!! Thank you!!! THANK YOU!!!

    Beth

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    1. That is too sweet of you to say. Thank you :)

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  86. Extremely funny, lovely, bittersweet. Unexpected treat on a not so great day.Thank you.

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  87. I am unashamedly in love with your father. You are a living example of his legendary fatherness. This should be required reading for all daughters who have fathers and are fatherless alike. Hugs to you on this day!!

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  88. I read this every year and stop breathing in the middle of it. I wish I had known your father. We demand a book about him. In the next year. Ann

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