Inside the envelope marked “Son John.”
As a child, I was pretty singularly driven to communicate with my father. And what I most wanted to communicate to him was that I loved him.
My father, however, was distinctly unkeen on my communicating with him. He didn’t like me. My very presence deeply annoyed him. But with all my heart I loved the man, and that was that. And I always felt that if he only knew how much I loved and admired him, things would be good between us.
Toward making things good between us—by way of getting through to my father how much I loved him—I began, when I was about seven years old, to write to him. Most nights before I went to bed, I would slip underneath my parents’ bedroom door that day’s … prototypical blog post to my father. Sometimes it was just a short note; sometimes it was a whole letter; often it was one of the zillions of cartoons or comic series I used to draw, with captions and voice bubbles and all.
I did that for years. I’d write that day’s communique to him, slip it under his door, and go to bed, knowing that, if nothing else, I had that day communicated with my father.
A distinct weirdness is that not once did my father mention, or in any way refer to, any of my letters to him. It was absolutely like they’d never happened. I sure never mentioned them. My dad scared me. If he didn’t want to talk about them, I wasn’t about to bring them up. It was just this strange, almost other-wordly thing that existed between us: this phantom, nighttime connection that daytime washed away. It was like every morning my last letter to him just vaporized into the ether.
Well, sort of. Pretty often, after my dad left for work, I’d find whatever I’d written to him the night before crumpled up in the little wicker wastepaper basket just inside my parents’ bedroom door.
During my recent last visit to my dad’s house (see my last six or so posts), I found a large bubble envelope, on which someone had long ago written with a black felt pen the words “Son John.” (Son John?)
Inside the envelope was two hundred or so of the notes and letters I’d written to him as a kid. I had no idea they existed anywhere. I don’t know if my dad saved them, or if my moms did, or what. But there they were, in that old white bubble envelope, on a shelf in my dad’s garage. Waiting for me.
“Can I have these?” I asked my dad.
“What are they?” he said, glowering suspiciously. My dad’s big fear in life is that people are trying to steal stuff from him.
“It’s a bunch of notes and stuff I wrote you as a kid.”
“Oh, I don’t care,” he said.
And thus do I now have the envelope here at home with me.
Here is some of what as a young boy I wrote to my dad, taken from letters I’ve pretty much just pulled at random from the pile:
Dad–Guess who? Ha, ha. Me again. Do you get bored with me always telling you that I love you? Too bad for you, pal-o-mine. Because you are my father, and I think you are the greatest dad in the world. You go to work every day. I know you don’t like your job too much; I can tell how tense it makes you. [So apparently I was about ten when I mastered the semicolon. Sweet!] But you do it anyway, so that we can have clothes and food and a roof over our heads. You provide us things, and make our lives great. I love you, John
Dad–I love you more than anything in the world. You are a neato father. Collins [my junior high] won’t be so hard, because you will help me. I love you very much. A whole lot. Love, John
Dad–sorry I was so grumpy today. I promise it wasn’t anything that you did or said. I know there’s nothing you can do about this, but what is happening, really, is that I just miss mom. That’s why I look at that old picture of her every night with a magnafying glass. John [As you might know, when I was ten years old my mother suddenly disappeared from my life. See My Runaway Mom.]
Dad– Your a neat father. I will be real proud of you at the banquet, because your my dad and your twice as good as anybody. Thanks for the math tips. Luv your proud son, John
Dear Dad — I love you. I think you are a real neat dad. I wouldn’t trade you in for nobody, not even Superman. I hope you sleep good tonite. Maybe I will see you tomorrow morning. I almost did this morning but I had to leave at 7:25. If I see you even for a minute before I go to school I am always very happy. I love you, John
Dad–since tomorrow is your birthday, I wanted to say to, tonight, Happy Bat Mitzvah!! Isn’t it wonderful to have a son who shows his affection so well? Please remember that child beating is against the law in Calif. John
Dear Dad, I love you lots & lots & lots. I think that you are the best father there ever was or will be. I was so glad that you let me sit with you tonight. I don’t really have anything special to say. Just that I love you. Love, Whatsisname.
Dear Dad — Goodnight! I have gone to bed (in case you didn’t know yet). Anyway, I’m probably sleeping now. Today I learned a good tip about going to be early — “Early to bed & early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy & wise.” Ha ha! So you see my going to bed early will thus make me healthy, wealthy & wise, as it says in “Poor Dick’s Almanac.” And when I become healthy, wealthy, and wise, I won’t give you any. And you’ll come crawling to me. But I’ll be stern, and won’t give you anything. But then I’ll think about it, and give you money and all I have to give because I really love you, and always will, even when I’m healthy, wealthy, and wise. Love, Ben Franklin John