An Open Letter to My Dad: Love, Loss and Memories

by Tammy Strobel on May 17, 2012

{Note: This letter was inspired by a column at McSweeney’s.}

Mahlon,

I remember the day mom came home and said she was going on a date with you. I asked mom, “Well, what’s his name?”

And she said, “I don’t remember! It’s a different name; one that I don’t hear often.”

When mom came home that night she told me your name. I’d never heard the name Mahlon before and though it was cool and different.

I met you when I was in 5th grade. I was a gangly little girl, who was extremely shy and looking for a little direction in life. When we met for the first time you seemed nervous. Your hands were buried deep in your front pockets and you looked down at the gray cement driveway and said hello. I remember thinking how nice and kind you seemed.

I remember when you asked my permission to marry my mom. You said you didn’t want to marry her if I didn’t like you; that you wanted to be part of our family. And I wanted you to be part of our family too. Then off we went to the Hallmark store, looking for the perfect card for mom. And indeed, we found the perfect singing card. You couldn’t get down on one knee and propose because your knee was busted. You hurt yourself trying to chase us down the ski slopes.

I remember all the basketball games you came to, swim meets, ski meets, and all the times we took long drives up to Lake Tahoe, just so mom and I could ski together. Remember the time we went to Mammoth for the state ski finals and we stumbled across a dozen St. Bernard puppies at a random gas station? Mom climbed into their pen, started barking with the dogs, and we howled with laughter. She has always been a free spirt.

I wish I could talk about these good-times with you, but you’re so ill. Parkinson’s disease, dementia and two stokes have taken their toll. I can’t call the house and talk to you anymore because you’re so confused. And I have to admit, I’m terrified that you won’t come back to us and that you’ll be trapped in a body that doesn’t work.

I know you would tell me to live my life and be good to my mom and I am doing those things to the best of my ability. But I’m scared. I’m scared of losing you and forgetting all the good memories; that they they will fade away with the passing seasons and years. You would probably tell me that you’ve lived a wonderful, good life, and that’s true.

Loss is inevitable, love never dies and memories are around forever. All clichés, I know, but I hope their simple wisdom will help you (and us) as your story continues to unfold.

With love,
Tammy

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