Open Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad,

Never have I missed you as much as I do right now. A son needs a father’s guidance even more so when he becomes a father. Both of you were gone well before I became a parent. I have needed your reassurance and counsel many times since my sons were born. Most importantly I wish you could meet my children and see a little bit of yourself in them. I know that you would be proud.

Dad, I know life for you was hard and that you could not overcome your addiction. Unfortunately, I never really had the opportunity to get to know you in a way that most sons know their fathers. What I do know is that you provided for us by risking your life in coal mine every day for decades and that you loved us. You were kind and did the best you could to prepare me for adulthood. I wish I knew why your life was so hard and why you couldn’t overcome alcoholism.

My time with you was brief compared to many sons and their dads. You were not at my college track meets, graduations, wedding, or the birth of my sons. You left me for the most part shortly after I went to college. I vividly remember getting the call that you had a stroke during my sophomore year in college and visiting you later in VA hospital in Roanoke, unrecognizable barely able to speak. As tears streamed down my face, you managed to say, “don’t be like me”. What I forgot until now is that I am the exact same age as you were when this happened. 

This begs the question; did I turn out like you dad? The truth is, I do not know. I suppose time will tell. Our personalities are drastically different but I do share some of your flaws and hopefully some of your qualities. From what I have been able to piece together from family and friends, you were something special in your youth, likeable, handsome, and hard-working. I like to think I inherited some of those traits but only you know the reality. I share your depression but not your absence. I have always been present in my children’s lives and explain my flaws rather than avoid them. I wish you would have done the same. Not that I am angry, I just wanted to know you were always in pain. I believe that you were a good man, someone who wanted to do the right thing but was truly incapable. Like you I try hard to do right but sometimes I come up short.

Although my memories of you are relatively few, they are enjoyable. I have saved every single thing you ever gave me in hopes that each item might reveal something new about you if I just look hard enough. As a dad, I have tried to parent my kids in a way that I wanted to be parented. Without a frame of reference, I have no clue if I have been successful. All I know is that my children love me and I am there for them. As I sat on the edge of your hospital bed, the last words that you ever said to me were, “it’s going to be alight”.  That might not be the most profound thing a father has ever said to his son but it is truthful. Thanks dad for doing the best you could and know that I love you.



Your son

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