My father has been dead 47 years now. Our relationship, as with many fathers and sons, was often contentious, and much of the “blame” I now know, rests with me. I often treated him very badly, though I never doubted for a single moment that he loved me. But when one is young, and away from home for the first time, feeling one’s way through a huge and complex world makes it next to impossible to maintain a proper perspective.
I recently came across a letter my dad had written me two weeks after I entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program in Pensacola, Florida. My mother, bless her, kept every letter I wrote home while I was in service and I, in turn, saved every letter I received from her and my father.
Mom wrote nearly every day; Dad far less often, but that was totally in keeping with the times...writing letters wasn't something that men did.
It's hard to describe my feelings as I read the letter below. Dad always tried so hard to be the kind of father he thought a father should be, which meant doing his best to guide me and guard me against perceived dangers. I truly ache that I never, at the time, really, fully appreciated him or realized just how proud of me he was and how much I meant to him. I would give anything to go back, physically, in time knowing what I know now. Perhaps I would have been a better son. I know I would have tried.
Aug 30 - 1954
Just read your letter and from your attitude of words I feel I must say this―Don’t forget you are not the only one undergoing the same treatment and you were warned that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to go through. Time and time again I have tried to tell you that you must learn to take the easy bumps before you can face the hard ones. You are getting your first taste of the world as it is and you must learn to face it on your own. I believe in you and sincerely want you to believe in yourself. You are no worse than any of the fellows there and you just have the will to get ahead in order to do so. Sure, I grant you that it seems dark a lot of times but son you and you alone can make the grade. Nothing I can do can help you and again I believe you have the stuff in you to be as good as any man there. So please (not for my sake or your Mother’s) be as good as the next one. IT’S UP TO YOU.
Enough of this lecturing―it’s really not meant to be that but just a boost to your seemingly sagging morale. Don’t under any conditions lose that wonderful sense of humor you have. But again please son think of your future. I know that you can do it. So son just a little more effort on your part and I’m sure that there will be no more demerits.
Remember Son it’s no fun punching a time clock and you are receiving the finest training and education that no college in the world can give you. So Son chin up and try just a little harder. Huh, Son?
I know I’m not the best Father in the world, but none could hope for any more happiness or success than I have for you. This is evidently one of my more serious moods Son, but take it from a guy who knows, nothing that is worthwhile comes easy. Everything I have someday will be yours but you must earn it. We did and no one can take away the satisfaction of knowing we did it on our own. Take all the above Son for what it is worth and whatever the outcome Son, you’re mine now and always. Whatever comes up we can meet it Son, but again, let’s try a little harder. Sorry if I bored you but again Son it’s you I am thinking of.
I had never realized before that in this single letter, he calls me Son 13 times. I am trying not to cry.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).