Friday, January 9, 2009

A Letter To My Father: Big Boys Do Cry

Written on March 28, 2008


You just told me last night that your kidneys are working at 50% efficiency, that you’ve been spilling protein and that you have been anemic. That explains why all weekend you seemed to be cold most of the time. I noticed you wearing your coat a lot and folding your arms as if you couldn’t get warmed and wondered why but didn’t think of what you would tell me on Easter Sunday evening March 23, 2008. I didn’t diagnose in my mind what you would shortly share with me as we drove together to pick up dinner from the Applebees on 202 in Wilmington, Delaware.

I lay in bed last night and cried at the thought of losing you, dad. Wesley was still awake and saw the tears running down my face. He asked me, “You have a booboo, daddy?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “Why are you crying?”

I said, “My heart is hurting. But you make me feel better.”

He smiled, pleased at the thought that he could heal my “booboo” and agreed, “Yeah, I make you feel better.”

I feel as though I need to write this letter to you so that I can work through how I feel as well as tell you what it has meant to me to have you as my father these 34 years. There’s a certain presence you have, a familiarity I sense whenever you are near. It’s the familiar sights, smells and sounds of someone in whose presence I grew up as a child and into early adulthood, a presence that wanders the hallways of my mind, always there, always close by. Your voice, your walk, your stature, your hair, your deep blue eyes, your physique. It’s all very familiar and reassuring. Like one long memory without any “commercial” interruptions about growing up with you, running behind you and tugging on your pants leg the way Ethan, Wesley and Emma tug on mine.

One of my earliest memories, it’s not vivid but it is there, is of our apartment in High Point when I was only a baby. I can see you in that apartment, young, strong, working and providing for mom and me. I recall that the apartment was small and that you had a good relationship with the landlords. That was my first introduction to the way you related to people outside of our family. You have always had positive relationships with people you knew in life. Knowing you had a good relationship with the landlords made me understand your genuine admiration and love for humble people, a trait you have carried throughout your entire life. Geraldine was a humble person. You liked her and her family. Mike Key, the man you helped me give my championship Carolina Tar Heel license plate to was, I think, one of those humble, simple people that you truly enjoyed helping and being around. Why have you always gravitated toward simple people? Is it because down deep, you see yourself as simple? Has the fact that you were poor growing up contributed to your lifelong liking of humble simple people? I remember reading of one of the presidents of the United States that he had this very same trait. One of the servants that waited on him at the White House wrote about how he would say hello every time he was walking on the White House grounds. Once, he called down to the servant quarters just to let them know that their favorite kind of bird was sitting on the tree outside his office window. This is the kind of greatness and love for humble honest people I associate with you dad. You love people, especially those that are “down to earth”. Me too! I hate pretense and sham, which I know you also despise. You always have. Who doesn’t hate hypocrisy, right?

You’re not even gone yet, but I miss you already. I know you’re not going to die tomorrow, but I just don’t know what this all means as far as time left. How much time do you have left? What kind of quality of life can you expect? I don’t know and so I am afraid, afraid of what I don’t know and indeed can’t know right now.

I love you, Dad.

Your Adoring Son,


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