I keep notes and letters in the pages of books. I have hundreds – no, thousands – of books. I thus have hundreds to thousands of surprises awaiting me on the shelves in my home. I enjoy when they appear. It happened yesterday as I was searching high and low for a particular book to lend to one of my partner’s students (never could find the darned thing). As I looked through the shelves, the books stored two, sometimes three, deep; through the storage area under the front window; through a couple of boxes in the closet, I found a few letters from years ago.
I found a note from an old friend who I’ve not heard from in years, dated February 17, 1994. I found a letter from my Grandmother who, up until only the last few years of her life, was an avid letter writer. So routine was her writing habit that the letter I found only says, “Thursday”, in the top right-hand corner of page one. It references my grandfather and my birthday and my sermon preparation, so I can deduce it’s pre-1995, when Granddaddy was still alive and I still wrote sermons. Lastly, I found a letter from my father. He did not inherit the letter-writing gene from his mother (none of us did) and admits it in the first line, “It has been awhile since I’ve written to you…” It’s dated May 4, 1997 and is mostly a travelogue. He fills me in on trips he’s taken and trips coming up.
One paragraph near the end though, caught my attention. It’s a brief attempt at fatherly wisdom and it catches my attention because, well, my dad isn’t exactly known for and/or counted on by me for wisdom or advice or any of those sappy things that appear on Hallmark cards on Father’s Day. In fact, had I tried, I doubt I could have found a Father’s Day card with any pre-written sentiment that matches anything I actually feel for my dad. But in this particular letter, he shares with me something about how life sometimes works out; how we sometimes make some changes that we’re not sure about at the time, but in the end prove to be the right thing. He ends the paragraph with, “I hope something will open for you and you will do something with which you are happy.”
It’s a good try on my dad’s part and I imagine I took it for how he meant it. I long ago worked out any resentments I had against my dad for not being a “Hallmark Dad”. He did what he could, both before and after my mom died. At times it hurt. At times I really could have used more than, “What do you want me to do about it?” But he is who he is and I, the same.
The final paragraph of that letter reads, “You know I am thinking about you and miss you.” That’s the sentiment we share. “You know this…”