Four Words And Forty Years
It’s only four words. They are scrawled on the back of a piece of blank accounting paper. They were most likely written in less than a minute, and yet, every single word is precious to me.
It’s fair to say I have daddy issues. My mother was married 5 times before I turned 12. When I was eleven, she married my dad. Except, he wasn’t my dad at the time, he was my step-dad. My name wasn’t Bliss then, but it was still Rodney, although everyone called me Rod.
My mom was married to my dad for about thirty years. They were crazy about each other. They were also both hard to live with. Fortunately, not for each other. I met my dad when he was already old. He was nearly fifty. Younger than I am now.
We had a good relationship. Once we got to know each other, he was a good father. He hadn’t always been. And I think he saw my brothers and me as a chance to correct some past mistakes, or at least do better this time.
Emotion was hard for him to show, especially softer emotions. I never saw him cry. I never heard him pray. He never told me he loved me. Well, verbally anyway. That’s why the letter is so precious. I was going through my files today clearing out old medical records and course evaluations, when I came across the only letter my father ever sent me.
Rod: Thanks Love Dad
It’s an amazing letter. It’s almost Hemingwayish in it’s ability to convey so much with so little.
I had recently helped my grandmother, my dad’s mom, move into an assisted living center in Provo, near where I lived. My parents lived in Olympia, WA. My dad really wanted to be there to take care of arrangements himself. I wasn’t sure he trusted me with the responsibility. She was moved in easily and adjusted well. My lovely wife and I visited her often. My dad was grateful. I’m sure he’d thanked me for things previously, but it was rare. Not because he wasn’t grateful, but because he didn’t like others to do for him. This letter was to thank me for helping my grandmother.
This was the word that stuck out to me. He was not a man who spoke of love. In fact, I think this may have been the only time I ever heard the word from him directed at me. I knew he loved me. I knew he loved my mother. But, he was more apt to show it than say it. And after showing it, he didn’t want a lot of emotional gratitude showered on him. In turn, I don’t think I told him I loved him. I think he knew. I tried to be a good son. And it wasn’t awkward between us. We simply didn’t share our emotions like that. In fact, I think the first time I ever told him I loved him was while delivering the eulogy at his funeral. That sentence sounds full of regret. It’s not. We parted on great terms with no regrets and nothing left unsaid that we wanted said.
This would not seem to be an awkward word. My kids use it multiple times per day. Some of my girls use Daddy, and I’m fine with that. But, my dad wasn’t dad when I met him. He was Lloyd. All my stepfathers were called by their first name. It wasn’t until my parents had been together about 4 years that my dad adopted me. At that point he became Dad, but at fifteen, after four years of Lloyd, the word dad didn’t come easy. And we were a blended family. My adopted siblings were not in turn adopted by my mom. So, their parents were Dad and Patricia. My brothers and I referred to our parents as Mom and Lloyd. When the kids would get together we compromised and referred to them as “the parents.” It sounded like some Jay Roach movie, “Meet The Parents.”
I didn’t continue to call him Lloyd, but I also didn’t call him Dad. I just managed to live my life for many years without allowing myself in a position where I had to address him by name. This letter was the first time I remember him calling himself my dad.
So, four simple words. Sixteen character, not even enough for a long tweet. And yet, it’s been forty years since we met. It’s been six years since he passed away. And they are still four of the most precious words I’ve ever read.
Dad, you’re welcome.
There’s a business lesson in there somewhere about missed opportunities or the importance of mentors or something. I’ll look for it another day.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
Follow him on
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com
(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved