Dear Dad

15 Jun

It’s a jolt to realize I will soon turn 10 years younger than you were when you died.  I wonder what you would think of the past 13 years I’ve lived without you.  What would surprise you, shock you, delight you?  It would be interesting to have your view of what’s been going on without you.

You and mom were the first ones to introduce me to Laguna Beach when you lived in San Diego years ago.  There, with the bright blue sky dotted with pelicans, the creatively landscaped cliffs going down to an incredible expanse of the Pacific Ocean, I had a thought that I had never had before — I could be happy here for the rest of my life.  And, years later, after mom died, you and I moved to a large retirement community then called Leisure World only 6 miles from Laguna Beach.

I was then among the youngest in the retirement community, but even now I’m still “a kid” compared to some of our neighbors whom you would still remember.  At this point in my life, I no longer wander the world.  I eventually adapted to a small, simple,  and sweet world combining friends, a wide variety of activities, chances to ponder the sea as I walk in the smooth sand of the beaches,  warmly wrapped in a year-round gentle and happy climate.

One of the main attractions of this retirement community was a bus system that would enable you to stay active without driving.  Three years ago, I gave up your old car and now use the community bus system, subsidized taxi vouchers, and the county bus system.  With careful pre-planning, I can get where I want to go, plus my legs are stronger from walking more.

I’ve made some changes in the house, but it would still be familiar to you.  Our patio and yard have improved with more flowers and plants than you would remember.   I still take joy puttering in the garden, but gave up trying to grow anything the rabbits want to eat.

The death of my brother in 1996, mom in 1998, you in 1999, and my son in 2003 have made me very aware of my mortality.  Your sister lived to 88 1/2 — the longest of anyone in our family.  I am very aware now that I am the last limb on the family tree.  I am the one my younger cousins turn to for family history and to identify people in the old snapshots.

I’m so sorry you can never read the book I just published called “Out of Step:  A Diary To My Dead Son.”  Nor the one I wrote of my 16 years of wandering the world published in 2006 called “Memoirs of a Middle-aged Hummingbird.”  Nor my blog as the Senior Hummingbird.  But you and mom did get to share a bit of my traveling life by visiting Israel and China when I was there, as well as through my many letters.

You would most likely be pleased that I often say thank you to you for bringing me to what is now called Laguna Woods Village.  Since you lived here with me for 4 months, I still feel your presence in our home.  You were a good man, and a loving dad.  Happy Father’s Day!


Your daughter



While babies universally babble “da-da,” eventually fathers become “baba” in China, “abba” in Israel, “dad” or “daddy” in the U.S.  Although fathers have been around for centuries, it wasn’t until 1972 that President Nixon proclaimed national recognition of Father’s Day,  58 years after President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day.

I never really asked my dad whether or not he liked being a dad.   The beginning for my parents was rough.  My dad was sent to an army base in Tampa, Florida, to await orders to go overseas to fight in World War II.  My mother, very much in love with him, quit her job and followed him to the base.  They got married in a simple ceremony with two strangers to sign as witnesses.   Without meaning to, they became my parents only 13 months later.

Family lore is often unreliable, but as I heard it, my birth saved my dad’s life.  He was due to be shipped out, but got some extra time at the base when I was born.  The ship he would have been on was attacked and sunk.  He eventually did get to the European front, but toward the end of the war.  As an adult, I remember him speaking positively about his days in the army.  Although he was never there, I felt proud of him when I visited the infamous prisoner of war camp near the River Kwai in Thailand.  Mostly because of my dad, I can understand why his generation earned the title of “The Greatest Generation.”

My dad was a good guy.  His gentle, calm demeanor was a welcome contrast to my nervous, excitable mother.  Although he was distressed by some of the decisions I made in my life, he hung in there.

He worked hard and long as a traveling salesman during the week, so he wasn’t too fond of going out on the weekends after all that driving.  His sociable, easy-going manner helped him work his way up to the Sales Manager of the small manufacturing company.  And there he stayed until retirement.  There were no unions or lifetime pensions in his  company, but he did get a lump sum of money and the traditional pocket watch when he retired.

Because that pocket watch was meaningful to him, he gave it to my brother.  But life takes some sharp twists and he had to bury his only son when my brother died suddenly at 46.  Dad hadn’t really recovered from my brother’s death when my mother died two years after my brother.  For the next 10 months, it was just dad and me.  I thought of myself as taking care of him, but he was really taking care of me.  I gave the pocket watch to my son.  When my son died, I took the pocket watch.

For the last 12 years, I’ve lived alone in the home my dad and I bought together in a retirement community in southern California.    Among the mementos and memories are two photos I love.  One is of a handsome old man with a warm smile and a full head of hair, dressed like Crocodile Dundee.  The other is a fresh-faced soldier as he must have looked when I was born.  I’ve added a small magnet that adheres to the metal frame.  It says simply, “thank you.”

From Jan — Simply lovely.

When I hear the name, Cary Grant, I think of  a handsome, charming, romantic, witty actor.  But his daughter, Jennifer Grant, has recently written a book called “Good Stuff,” describing Cary Grant as simply her devoted dad.  When she was born to actress  Dyan Cannon and an aging Cary Grant, he retired from acting and dedicated the last twenty years of his life to being “Dad.”

She describes idyllic summer days in the Hamptons, “swimming, boating, reading, tennis, backgammon, and burgers by the pool.”  He encouraged her horseback riding in competitions.  He took her with him as often as he could.  Locked in a home vault are the alphabet book he wrote for her, “cassette tapes, movies, slides, photos, notes — even the first flower I picked for him.”  Having a vault for such simple treasures made sense to him because his own childhood possessions had been destroyed in World War I.

There are interesting little tidbits about Cary Grant to be learned from the book.  He kept his good looks into his seventies, but never dieted or exercised.  He loved candy and drank a pot of coffee daily.  And, like me, he loved reading in the middle of the night.   His favorite Chinese meal was egg rolls, spareribs, Peking duck, and iced lychee nuts eaten at Madam Wu’s Garden restaurant .  And he liked taking his daughter to Dodger Stadium.

He was apparently a happy man generally and filled himself and his daughter with continuous joy in his last best role as “Dad.”

Happy Father’s Day!

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