Note to The Old Man

If I were able to speak to you, I am not sure if I would know what to say or where to begin. I am not sure I would recognize your voice or if you would recognize mine because it’s been that long.
I write mostly. I don’t speak out loud as often as I used to. I suppose I don’t speak because the words never seem to leave my mouth in the right way. But on paper, I feel more comfortable. On paper, I feel I’m able to express myself easier.

I was so young when you left. I was young and inexperienced. I was confused and scared. I had no idea what manhood was supposed to be like because you never had the chance to show me—or maybe—I never took the time to listen.

There are times I can hear you speaking.  I can hear you say, “Don’t do it, kid.”
I can hear you tell me, “You’re gonna regret this one.”
I can feel it, you know?
“Don’t give in, son.”
“You’re better than that, kid.”
“Don’t let them bring you down.”

There was only one thing you told me you hated more than a liar, and that’s a quitter. You told me, quitting becomes a habit.

It’s strange what I remember.
I remember a pair of mittens you bought for me at the flea market. I remember not liking them and that made you mad. But you bought them anyway and you made me wear them.
I remember mom falling on the ice after warning you to be careful.
I remember your blue truck, which looked so big to me because I was so little then.
And I remember the time I cried when I realized that someday—you were going to die. Remember?
You took mom out for dinner and the babysitter let me watch television. She let me stay up late too, but the show we watched was sad. Someone died, and that’s when I realized, someday you would die too.

I cried until you came home.
Then you picked me up and promised, “I’m not going anywhere.”

I wish there were more things like this. But you were you and I was me. You were tough and I was lost. It was hard for us to speak. Wasn’t it?
There was so much between us, yet too much against us.

I never understood why you were so angry.
I thought it was because of me. I thought it was always my fault.
It wasn’t until I became a father myself. That’s when I began to understand. It wasn’t until I owned my own home or opened a letter from the IRS—that’s when I began to understand. It wasn’t until I looked at a pile of bills and then I looked at the faces of those who depend on me. That’s when I understood.

I understand you weren’t angry. You were scared.
You were scared you might fail. You were scared you weren’t doing a good job.
You were afraid of getting old and you were afraid of being incapable.

I understand now.

I am afraid too. I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong.
And in this case, the word “It’ means so many different things.

I might not have always listened and I might not have done what you wanted me to . . . but I never quit.
Even when I was down, I never gave up. I kept going—even when I didn’t want to, and when I was able to get back up, I swore I could hear you say, “I knew you could do it, son.”

“Good job, kid.”
Man, what I wouldn’t give to hear those few words right now.

I suppose you know mom isn’t well.
Her memory is confused and her back is bent forward like a half-circle. It’s tough to see her like this. It’s tough to speak with her sometimes and it’s hard to listen when she becomes angry.
She’s not the same, Pop.
She’s much older now. But she still dreams of you. She tells me this all the time. She says she can see you. She tells me you look young. She says you look good and how she misses you.
Sometimes I wonder if she thinks you’re coming to get her. I suppose I wonder the same thing.

If I were able to see you, I’m not sure if I would know what to say or where to begin. I’m grown now. I’m not small anymore. I’m the head of my household, and, I’m a man.
But whenever I look at your picture, I still feel like a lost little boy. I feel like I’m a son that needs his father.
You know?

Do you remember the time you told me, “You may not think I notice, but I do.”
That was you telling me that you were proud of me

Sure wish you were here to notice me now, Pop.

Until next time,
Sleep well.

Oh, and by the way, there are a lot of people that have read my stories about you. I wish you could meet them, Pop. I think you would like them.
I know they would like you too.


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