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My Father’s Muse in Valentines

 

“…And I wish I could tell you in appropriate words, how very proud I am of you; not for what you have been, and not for what you are, but for what I know you will be, in years to come. Not the least among these things is the quiet reassurance I have in my heart, that you will love me even when the years grow even heavier upon my shoulders, and the burdens of Life continue to take their inevitable toll, and inscribes upon my forehead – “vacancy.”
— written in a Valentine’s card from my father, 1991–

You’ve heard that we use different parts of our brain to write and speak, haven’t you? It really should come as no surprise. I am a terrible conversationalist, but when I sit down at the computer or even with pen and pad, 10,000 saintly thoughts come marching in.

My father had a muse, and he believed I had one, too. Some would say it was just the firing of different neurons while others would call it the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Maybe, it’s both.

All I know is that in my father’s cards and letters dwelt his perfect love for me. The things he wrote to me he rarely spoke. Still, his tender missives came every birthday, every Easter, every Christmas, and every Valentine’s Day. My father is still alive, suffering from a monster in his brain, and so, in too many ways, these cards and letters are all I have left. I don’t read them very often, because they tear me up. I want to run to him, hold his hand, and remind him how perfect he was.

But, you know, he was not perfect. But, in too many ways, he was all I had. For me, his love was far greater than the sum of parts. As a unit, the family of origin operated in the red. As a child, those who spoke ill of him or hurt him in any way invited my ire. To this day, I do not like grand poobahs. This is the path most kids follow. I was loyal to my father and I cringe and fold when I am forced to remember his many imperfections.

I don’t want to live that way, remembering the bad. The more time that passes the more perfect he becomes. It is what Kahil Gibran wrote about in The Prophet. The mountain to the climber from the plain does not seem so hard scale. In our absence from one another, we become more perfect over time. I would have it no other way. I will see my father at 40 as I saw him at four. Besides, maybe it is my eyes, which have grown less perfect in time. This is the Polaroid, the tintype I choose to carry.
Many years ago, I went for three months without eating much of anything. I wasn’t starving myself, I was grieving. As sure as I knew if I threw a shot up it would come back down, I knew there were valleys I would never have to cross. But, it turns out, I did have to cross them. This journey made it easy to dismiss any and every imperfect moment with my father as just a bunch of inconsequential stuff — insignificant moments that at their worst constituted nothing more than a thin splinter, a faint and yellow bruise.
Here are the cherished words of my father written to me in Valentine’s over the years. It goes without saying, I miss him.

 

1992
“What would I do, had there never been you?
To challenge my thinking, to search out the true?
The good and the beautiful,
The person of you, the daughter so dear
So much like me, yet significantly you!”

1985
“ And I think the powers that be should declare by Congressional proclamation a Jennie Day upon which everybody in the entire world should send to you a Jenentine.”

1996
“All of us have had so many things happen in the last year it is difficult to try and ferret out the meaning of it all…My love for you as my daughter is forever, decisive and unending…”

1999
“Someday, though in years to come, which are within His own omniscience (up to now–) we all know better than what we know now (I Cor. 13:8-13)…”

2007
“You were one of my favorite gifts of all!”

And finally, this:

“I know that as your own years negotiate and dictate a constant change…you will still love me, as my dear and precious daughter. I, as your father, will know and understand, that although greatness and wealth and public acclaim elude me – that what was never possessed, is never really missed…and will ultimately realize the GREAT TRUTHS in the ETERNAL VERITIES of God…”
Happy Valentine’s Day, Daddy. I will always love you.

My dad and I cropped from a family photo, Walnut Church of the Nazarene, California, 1972

 

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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12 Comments

  1. Daddy Forever

    How sweet. You do have a talent for writing. BTW, you won! I’ll try to send you the code before I go to sleep tonight.

  2. jenx67

    @beck – believe me – i understand.

  3. Rebecca

    I am absolutely too torn up to even comment on this incredible post. I will only say this…

    I’m choosing to remember ONLY the good things…only the good. It is what makes living with “the Monster in his brain” bearable…

    I miss him, too….

    Beck

  4. Loren Christie

    Jen,
    This brought me to tears. It’s tender and raw. You touched on feelings that I can relate to. You went places with this post that I might not, unless we were face to face over coffee. I admire your bravery and frankness in writing. That’s the secret to making it great! I am deeply sorry about your dad’s, and your suffering. -Loren

  5. le @ thirdontheright

    wow jen you might have single handedly changed my V day perceptions …

    here in Aust it remains the domain of lovers and wanna bes …. not a reason to slow down and note the worthyness and awe of a parent – child relationship …

    you are blessed to have these keepsakes from your dad 🙂 le

  6. jenx67

    @Lin – today you took dad a Valentine. I know you understand.

  7. Kristin T.

    This is really beautiful. I especially love how you’ve taken the imperfect realities and perfected it — that you see him at 40 just as you saw him when you were 4. How wonderful that he was able to communicate to you in this way, and that those communications are in a form you can hold, and read again and again.

  8. Stefunkc

    So sweet. I envy the relationship you have had with him.

  9. Barry Moses (Sulustu)

    What a sweet, endearing post. Thanks for sharing this with us, Jen. You never cease to inspire me to remember the loving bonds I feel with my own family.

  10. Lin

    Jen…

    Thank you for the sweet glimpse into your relationship with Dad. These are priceless treasures he has left for you. Your writing is so much like his.

    I miss his cards so much.

    Lin

  11. Anonymous

    Just like your dad you are an inspirational and entertaining writer. Seeing through the fog of life to the marrow of an individual or situation. Despite all of the books, newspapers, magazines, journals and professors of liturature that are produced not many have been able to express thoughts as well as you. If the AP would actively look for talent like yours newspapers would be soaring instead of trying to bow out gracefully. Your Husband

  12. Anonymous

    Absolutely FANTASTIC!

    A delightful post. Such JOY and SADNESS. Soulmates for sure. What a BLESSING you are to each other.

    This brought to mind my own dear “daddy” with thoughts to ponder and tears to flow.

    Thank you

    –Gracie

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