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A Father's Day Gift of Letters

Marc Sanchez

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Dick Weiss with his three daughters
(Sally Altman)

Dick Weiss will be at home this Father's Day, waiting to see which of his three daughters will call first. His youngest just moved out and Dick and his wife Sally are now sitting on an empty nest.

Father's Day is a time for phone calls -- but lately, in this family, it's been all about the written letter. As a way to keep in touch, Dick made a proposal: Each month, he would give his daughters a topic. They'd write a letter to him on that topic. He'd write back.

Dick wanted to know where his girls are in their lives... to see if he did his job right.


Dear Dad,

It sounded easy, but ever since I got your email I've been trying to decide what my favorite memory of us together is. There are just so many to choose from. I guess the most recent was our ride over Snowmass in the hot air balloon. Before that there was dancing to "Trailer for Sale or Rent".

You always used to joke to us that we needed to spend "quality" time with you. When I was younger, I probably rolled my eyes. But in retrospect, I loved quality time. It was the moment that I got my Daddy all to myself.

Maybe it was simply running an errand, having lunch, or putting up a basketball hoop. All I know is that it didn't have to be flying in a hot air balloon to be special!

Love,
Emily

Response to Emily: Yes quality time was a joke. I was raised to take almost nothing seriously But no it wasn't a joke. It's just that you never quite knew what was really quality time till you looked back on it. Definitely the basketball hoop. Definitely singing you to sleep in your crib when you had no idea how awful my singing voice was or knew but didn't have the vocabulary at age 18 months to tell me to shut my piehole. I remember two little bits of quality time. One was when I gave you some candy and you insisted that I had to share it with you. I can't remember a time when you have ever been selfish. I wonder where that comes from. The other quality time was with mom... I don't think we were even married yet. But you fell down and skinned your knee. You screamed in pain, raced right past me and into mom's arms. I should've been insulted I guess, but I loved seeing that. I love how the two of you love each other. It makes me very happy.


Dear Dad,

So I'm finally getting to this email thing. I would have forgotten again, but I was deleting emails in my inbox and ran across this one.

Right now I am at my friend Ryan's house watching him play chess with his roommate. Do you remember when you sent me to chess camp? Why didn't you ever support the cool hobbies I wanted to take up like hockey and karate? Chess? Lucky for you I still turned out pretty cool...

Do you remember when you used to take me to sports bars to get sodies and play foosball? Now that I think about it, that's kind of a weird thing to do with your daughter. Are you sad that I turned out to be so girly?

Love,
Elizabeth

Dad's response:

I reread your last e-mail. What a knife in the heart. You asked if I was sad that you turned out to be so girly?

I must admit that I kinda sorta tried to turn you into a boy. I loved your hair short and with a baseball cap on top of it. I took you to ballgames and fed you all this cotton candy that sold for about $10 an ounce to make sure you would stay the nine innings. But yes, I did draw the line at karate and hockey. What a fool I was because then you did go girly with such a vengeance. You turned into this gorgeous, lithe guy magnet. But hey you still like baseball. It was fun to share a pitcher of beer with you and Ryan when I was in Gunnison And you aren't bad at foosball, though you stink at pool and I never want to be paired up with you again especially when we play Ryan.

So it's okay for you to be girly because I know every so often you'll do a guy thing with me and not be embarrassed one bit. In fact, I like to think the work that I put into developing that side of your personality has paid off with the men you date. They must be mightily impressed that you know the infield fly rule and what a Texas-leaguer is. You do know those don't you? Don't go breaking my heart again.

Love Dad


Dear Dad,

Since I was eight years old I have wanted to be a writer. Ten years later, I'm still not sure why. What I think really draws me towards writing, is my desire to be just like you.

As a kid, I saw you as the great story teller. As I got older, I waited with just as much eagerness and excitement to read your stories in the Post. Once I started to write, and gained the courage to show you my work, I loved to watch as you smiled as you read what I wrote.

When I began to write columns for the Globe, a lot of people would tell me that I sounded like you. I took this as the highest of compliments. I always thought that you were the original, and I was just your follower, but then I began to dig through your old things and came across grandpa's old letters and stories. I realized you and I are the same: we are both just cute kids with the desperate desire to make our Daddies proud.

What I learned from looking through grandpa's boxes and what I realized you've been teaching me, is that all I have to be is the best writer I can be. One who cares about the integrity of her work and the people for whom she is writing for.

I could not have asked for a better example to follow than you Dad.

Love,
Katharine

To Katharine: It's gratifying to think that you desire to walk the same path. But don't be afraid to step away from it. It would not disappoint me at all, especially if you show the same commitment and good intentions that you have displayed in following the writerly path. If you decide not to be a writer, we could always use an auto mechanic in the family and there is dignity in that work as well. Someone needs to deal with those check engine lights.

I think I stuck to writing because Poa never made a big deal about turning me into a writer. When I expressed the desire he did whatever he could to help me. But I know that if I walked up to him one day and told him I wanted to be a diplomat (a career I considered until I found I could not master one foreign language even after a decade of study) he would have been thrilled. Auto mechanic I'm not so sure about, but I'm sure he would have probably let me work on his car.

Poa was never afraid to give me advice. He had plenty of it, but he never insisted that I follow it. I never felt as if he ever held it against me when I took another direction.

Oh, he had one big rule: never ride on a motorcycle. Of course, I had to do that once... It was with Michael Lowenbaum's dad. I never told Poa about it. And now I've lived to tell the tale and my children jump out of airplanes, ski without helmets and jump off bridges with bungee cords. That's Poa's revenge. So if you are thinking of taking a risk, know that it may not kill you but your children will make you pay.

Comments

  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Phil Turner

    From Frisco, TX, 06/20/2008

    As a father of one, I am inspired to do the same with my 24 year old son,

    I'll let you know,

    By Georgia Cassel

    From Piedmont, CA, 06/16/2008

    ok Dick, you're in BIG trouble now. You made me cry before taking off for errands. The story is incredibly sweet, poignant, and apt....who knew????

    By Cheryl Laut

    From Pevely, MO, 06/16/2008

    Dick: This is beautiful. Very touching, personal and honest. Thanks so much for sharing.

    By Annette Reavling

    From St. Louis, MO, 06/16/2008

    Dick after reading the challenge and knowing the impact communication has on relationships, I must admit you are indeed a wise father. May you continue to embrace your daughters in this healthy way.

    By tom anselm

    06/15/2008

    Dick...thanks for sharing this idea. I am blatantly going to steal it. Five of my six kids are out in the real world, and the sixth is fast approaching, going to be a senior in high school next year. They are all great writers and should have a lot to say.. what a great idea. Tom Anselm

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