Dear Dad,

June 14, 2012 § 21 Comments

Does it surprise you that the fifth anniversary of your death is coming up in July?

It surprises me. And it doesn’t.

I still say “Hi, Dad,” when I go in your house, although I say it less often than I did at first. The illusion that I’ll walk in and look through your bedroom door and see you sitting at the computer doesn’t hold up. The desk is gone. It is no longer even a bedroom.

I’ve never missed anyone as I’ve missed you, not even Mom, who you know was one of my best friends. Although I was alone with her when she died, I couldn’t face her death and so I walled it off. What I didn’t know was that walling off her death walled off her life as well.

I still haven’t found my way back to her. I sometimes dream she is alive, but forgotten in a nursing home or hospital, as if I had misplaced her. Please tell her I’m sorry.

You and I worked so hard to keep you alive. Remember the endless appointments with urologists and cardiologists? I especially remember sitting with you waiting for the urologist and staring at a diagram of male urological anatomy. It was all simplified and abstract except for the probing finger that was palpating the prostate, which was drawn very realistically.

We stared at it together, father and daughter, and wondered how we’d come to this point. But we were up for any indignity. We wanted you to live.

The morning you left for the heart surgery you leaned over and patted Moo. “I’ll be back,” you said. But to me you said, “If I don’t make it, I have no regrets. It’s been a good life.”

When you didn’t. I remembered the mistake I’d made with mom. I was determined to keep you in my life no matter how hard I had to grieve to do it.

I gave at least a year over to your loss. It was at about the time Josie and Ray began to confer about how to fix me—this has gone on too long, they said—that I was driving home and sunlight hit the car windshield. Suddenly bathed in light, I felt something I had forgotten.


And I realized that I was coming out the other side and that you were still with me. But the broken glass of your death had been worn smooth. I could carry it with me unharmed.

We still own your house. We’ve turned it into a library for the neighborhood kids. The archaeology of your life is disappearing beneath stacks of picture books, art supplies, abandoned hoodies, crates of Legos.

This is how I’ve gone on without you. I turned the loss of you inside out, giving it to those who will sweep the future clean, not just of you, but of me as well, and then they will travel on. Last week, when the kids gathered I talked about simple machines. No matter what future they go toward they will need to understand pulleys and inclined planes.

You did. You lived a life anchored in logic and science. Did you see the catapult we built in the yard?

Still, I miss the calm company of your rational mind. Your kindness. Your ability to identify a bird based solely on its song. You, singing like some dime store Sinatra in the car. I miss our daily walks. Having a dad.

I miss you–and I carry you with me everywhere I go.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.



Note: Dad always spelled my name wrong—and pronounced it just the way he spelled it: a drain.

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§ 21 Responses to Dear Dad,

  • Such a sweet tribute to your Dad. I cried for all of us who have lost beloved parents. Great love is accompanied by great grief.


  • Beautiful, Adrian.


  • deb reilly says:

    “This is how I’ve gone on without you. I turned the loss of you inside out, giving it to those who will sweep the future clean, not just of you, but of me as well, and then they will travel on.”

    Wow. They must be so proud of you.


    • I only hope they are still watching me. I feel as if they are–especially my dad. My mother may have moved along to whatever it is that is beyond the next hill.


      • deb reilly says:

        I don’t think your mom has moved beyod you. (Heck, I’m certain she hasn’t.) Why would she? You are wonderful AND you are her daughter! A little thing like physical existence can’t stop Love, which is the most powerful force there is.

        Love & Light,


      • My mother, although a Catholic, had a strong belief in reincarnation. She believed that souls traveled in groups and that our family members had all been connected before–and would be again. If she is right about that she has gone ahead and I’ll see her next time. Darn. I wanted to be her mom in the next life.


  • Craig is still in China. Here is his comment:

    that was so moving, and brought back to me my own feelings when my
    mother died. a good writer, no I should say a “great writer,” can
    really put things in focus, in perspective, and help the rest of us
    process our feelings, and ultimately take ownership of them, even the
    painful ones. your are incredibly brave to be willing to share such
    intimate emotions with the world; by doing so, you do a great
    service. thanks.


  • The photograph of you two walking down the lane is so tender, as is the writing. Beautiful essay – thank you for this.


    • The photo is actually my parents. My father, a Swede made only one exception to his no physical contact rule and you’re looking at her (Garrison Keillor is dead on about Scandinavians). But despite the fact he was never physically demonstrative my dad was very loving.


  • G.H. Edwards says:

    I am so glad I got to meet your dad Adrian. He was indeed a sweet man and I know how you miss him.


  • Judy says:

    You touched my soul with this letter to your dad.


  • I resonated so strongly with this piece, perhaps especially the line, “’ve never missed anyone as I’ve missed you, not even Mom, who you know was one of my best friends.” You taught me so much in the Maymester OLLI class. Someday I hope to finish the letter you had us start in that class. My letter was to my father too.


  • KM Huber says:

    iI is almost impossible to write what this post gives to me but I will try. What all good writing does, and I mean the really good stuff, is reveal the universal through the specific. Looking into your grain of sand, Adrian, my entire life with my parents is revealed. Thank you.

    Stunningly beautiful post.



    • Thank you Karen. Those of us who remember our parents as giants in our lives are so lucky. And I never feel as if I am exaggerating when I speak glowingly of either one of mine. Their goodness instilled in me the belief that life is good and that outcomes will always tend to be positive. They made me an optimist.


  • This is wonderful. I image of glass communicates a deep understanding of impermanence.


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