- I know my letter meant a lot to him because after he passed away, I found it while sorting through his belongings—stuffed into the worn black leather wallet he always carried. Tweet This
- Saying, “thank you” and “I love you,” and offering even one reason to back up those feelings can make a world of difference in the life of a father and a child. Tweet This
- Words of affirmation mend relationships and deepen commitments. Tweet This
My father, Les, was a farmer, a small man with a big heart, frail limbs, and a strong faith. He walked with a cane in his later years and leaned on His Lord his entire life. His faith guided him daily and was passed along freely to his three children. Few would believe the depth of congeniality that prevailed in our home growing up. I can’t recall a harsh word between my parents, nor was there a day I questioned their love for each other or for us. To this day, more than six decades later, my sister and brother are two of my closest friends. And I have not one bad memory of growing up on our farm as the middle child of a middle-class family, in the middle of the century in Mid-America.
So as Father’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think about my father, more than a decade now after his passing, and simply wish I could have more of Les. More of his faith, more of his kindness, his humor, his work ethic, his responsibility, his love—innumerable and admirable qualities condensed in a man who walked humbly, lived justly, gave generously, and openly loved the Lord.
My father may have been a man of few words, but his influence was great, especially with the words he parsed out to strategically nurture, protect, and guide us. I recall his silent smiles, his listening ears, and later, as an adult, the long conversations we shared over pots of hot black coffee. Oh, how I wish I had more of his ways and more chances to soak up a little bit more of Les and to thank him for all he did for me.
Instead, only memories remain of a common man who lived ordinary days in extraordinary ways from which I draw countless inspiration. I'm grateful that before he died, I decided to tell him how I felt. I’m sure my letter took him by surprise. It would have arrived in the latter years of his life via postal. Stretching to multiple pages and written on blue-lined notebook paper, I itemized the many reasons I admired him. I highlighted certain childhood memories that had made a difference to me and told him that I appreciated how I had been raised, where I had been raised, and that after living, working, and traveling far distances from our farm, I had found no more beautiful view in all the world than the one I saw looking out the back door of the white-framed farmhouse in which I’d grown up—southwest across the pasture to the endless western horizon. I suspect I also told him that I loved him. (We weren’t big with those words in our family, but it didn’t matter: we knew.) And I thanked him for all he’d done for me and begged forgiveness for neglecting to tell him before.
We never talked about my letter; that would have been outside the character of Les and certainly outside my own character. But I know my letter meant a lot to him because years later, after he passed away, I found that letter while sorting through his belongings. It was folded compactly, stuffed into the worn black leather wallet he always carried with him. He had saved it. I don’t recall what else we found in that old leather wallet; it really doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that I know my Dad knew without question that I loved and respected him and appreciated all he did for me.
My dad was one in million, so-to-speak. This, I know. I acknowledge that not all fathers provide the environment I recall from my childhood, yet each deserves to be honored in some way for the contribution he makes in the life of a child.
Reminding fathers of their important role and telling them what they mean to us individually is an important thing to do. It meant something to my own father, and it meant a lot to me, too. Saying, “thank you” and “I love you”—and offering even one reason to back up those feelings—can make a world of difference in the life of a father and a child. Words of affirmation mend relationships and deepen commitments, and let’s face it, they just make us feel good, which is reason enough to go bold this Father’s Day. So pick up the phone or a pen, or type out a text or an email, and tell the 'old man' what he means to you! You just might find remnants of it someday in his wallet (or on his phone), and you’ll be glad you did.
Rhonda Kruse Nordin researches and writes on family issues.