A Letter From My Father

Sometimes, I just need to write about things to get them out.

Right now is one of those times.

(You don’t have to read this if you don’t want to).

So tonight, my mom brought over the remains of the crap I had left over in my old room after I moved out. I was dreading it for a number of reasons, most of them being because it was a huge pile of crap– mismatched shoes, old notebooks, photocopied scripts from college, just…shit.

In the midst of all of that shit, however, there was one plain, letter-sized envelope marked “Letters from Dad and Mom”. Jake handed it to me and I ignored it for as long as I could, but eventually, I realized I was going to have to open it. I knew what it was– when we were in 8th grade, one of the benefits of going to a small school meant that the parent/teacher relationship was pretty strong, so she convinced all of the parents of the kids in my class to write us letters– they could be about anything, about their hopes for our future, how proud they were of us, whatever, but she thought it would be nice for us to have something meaningful from our parents.

Being 14, I didn’t think much of it. I remember reading it, thinking “lame and sappy” and sticking them in a musicbox for safekeeping, forgot about them, and that was really the end of it.

Thank god 14-year-old Catie had the foresight to stick them somewhere where they wouldn’t get fucked up, because tonight, after ten years, I got to read that letter from my father again.

This November, it will have been 4 years since he died. I’ve written already about what I would give to have him be here for those key moments in my life, but now, in some small, tiny way, I have a piece of him. Yeah, I have a bunch of his gungy old sweatshirts, but this is different. I have, in his handwriting, a messy, terribly written and awkwardly phrased letter telling me that he is proud of me. That he loves me. That he was proud to be my father.

When I was in Titus, I was really awkward around the guy playing Titus for a long time because I wasn’t used to having a father, and when I finally did get used to it, I didn’t want it to be over. It was weird, I know, and a little creepy, probably, but that show is so intensely focused on the father/daughter relationship (well, at least ours was) that it was really difficult to ignore that dynamic, so once it was gone, I realized how much I missed it, not just in the show, but in real life.

I miss HAVING a dad. It’s weird, and I feel terrible for saying it, but sometimes I miss having a dad more than I actually miss my dad, the person.

Part of that, I think, is because I never got to know my dad as “my dad, the person”. I got to know him as “my dad”, that all-wise and all-knowing, quiet confidant who shared smirks with me at my mom’s freak outs and understood my need for quiet, because he was the same way. I knew that part of him. I know that he loved the Cubs, tolerated football and made amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. I know that he ate the same lunch nearly every day for 15 years, made pancakes on Sunday mornings, wore his socks until they were full of holes and sewed on his own buttons and was always proud when he did. I remember he used to spin me and my brother really fast on that spinny thing at the playground and say he was “Doctor Evil”, an evil carnival worker bent on our destruction.

I know that he had a weird scar on the side of his face because when they called my parents to tell me I was at the hospital, my dad was cleaning out the drain in the bathroom and got so excited that he spilled drain cleaner all over himself. I know that he liked Kirk better than Picard but respected my preference and loved jazz music and hated the Eagles and thought the Rolling Stones were overplayed. I know that he was very choosy about his bananas and reused his paper lunch sacks and plastic baggies like a weirdo.

I know that he was a great softball coach and tried to be at all of my games. I remember his winter coat and his stupid rubber boots he wore over his dress shoes and how hard it was to get him to buy new clothes. He went to George’s Barbershop and had gone since he was a kid, thought George gave better haircuts than Ernie and after he died, they closed– part of me thinks he was the only person keeping them open.

I remember so many, many things about my dad, but I still don’t know so many things. I’ve heard so many great stories and I know that he did a lot of good for a lot of people– and I know that I miss him. A lot. I will regret not getting to know him in other, more significant ways, but in the end, I got what I got and I am grateful even for that.

Tonight, though, tonight my dad reminded me of things that I had forgotten. I didn’t expect him to be able to do that– but he did.

So, 14-year old Catie, way to be responsible.

Thanks, Dad.

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