GENDUSA COLUMN: A letter to my father

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, June 16, 2021

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Dear Dad, I am not sure if you can view this from Heaven, but since you flew there in 1999, I often feel you are beside me. But, of course, you know us earth-bound folks can’t see for looking sometimes, so I might have missed you.

A few things happened since you left. I married again in 2005, and I believe you would like this guy. He, just like you, reminds me to turn off the lights, close the doors, and keep the car clean. You must have hand-picked him to keep me straight! I know your dying wish was that I would not be alone, and I assume God heard your plea. Thank you, Daddy, for praying.

The kids are all grown now and scattered. We endured some tragedies that I hope you didn’t see or sense, but with God’s help, we mustered through and are fine. I sure am glad folks do not suffer from cancer, broken bones, or shattered hearts where you are, but we still grapple most days with earthly tragedies occurring somewhere. You taught me to stand tall and be strong, and even though I stumbled a few times, I picked myself up and courageously stood. Thank you, Dad.

I retired from design a few years ago and heard the Lord yelling for me to keep my promise that I would begin writing one day. And you know how He is; He doesn’t let you get away with not following through! Many of my stories involve those you shared about life, family and home.  You were the master storyteller, and I am so grateful I listened and learned. Thanks, Dad, for being such a great teacher.

You are not going to believe what else happened! After you, Mom, and brother John left, I felt orphaned. It was a strange feeling as if everyone flew to a glorious place and left me on the tarmac. Soon after, I realized most of the Walker family you adored was gone. I missed the roaring laughter, the twinkling eyes and the family trait of never meeting a stranger.

However, my writing often took me back to the Tennessee mountain town where we were all born as I told the tales of our heritage. I found cousins, friends and folks who never meet a stranger. And, Daddy, now I am an orphan no more. 

You taught me a valuable lesson, whether you realized it or not. You never thought yourself old or useless. Your sunny attitude was to keep doing and giving till you couldn’t. You thought laziness and apathy were components of the Devil’s workshop, and you were right. 

Near the end of your life, I recall watching you slowly meander through the resident’s parked cars at your independent living facility. You were armed with your Windex bottle and washing their car windows. You worked to make folks’ days brighter until your light was extinguished. Living is doing for others until you are done. Thank you, Daddy, for always caring.

Our country is torn now, Dad. People think what they believe is the only way. Compromise and conversation seem lost. Thus, we witnessed people storming the Capitol, politicians behaving in the worst possible way, and racism raising its grotesque head. All this happened in the middle of a pandemic that claimed over half-million of our citizens. Fear gripped our country, and as the climate grew hotter, so did the vitriol.

I wrote a column about how horribly you suffered because of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/20 that quickly killed your dad, your sister, and your aunt. You cried when you would recall those days of grief and misery. However, today, some folk’s hearts have hardened so, they cannot feel other’s pain. I learned that empathy and understanding are necessary to survive because you wept. Thank you, Dad, for your sensitive spirit. I loved you when you were alive, Daddy, but I love you far more today. Your wisdom, common sense, friendly nature, kindness, and wit resonate with me now more than ever. People adored you and respected your ability to enjoy life and love people.

You were intelligent, dependable, and carried your feelings on your sleeve without any fear of doing so.

It was and is an honor to be your daughter, and I pray I have somehow pleased you with my words.

I hope I have shown enough gratitude to our family and to those who forged a path for us all. Please continue to send me a story or two, and I look forward to the day in Heaven when you remind me to turn off the lights and close the doors.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy; I sure miss you, Lynn