I thought I’d write you a letter. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that. In fact, I think I’ve only written you one other time in my life: A little less than 18 years ago when I wrote you asking for your blessing for my intent to marry your first born daughter. I remember putting that letter in the mail and being a state of such anxiety and dread as I waited the few days for the letter to reach you. And then how absolutely terrified I felt as Barbara and I huddled around the telephone receiver waiting to hear what your reply would be. Of course, by that time I should have known I had nothing to worry about. You welcomed me with joyous, open arms. You trusted me with one of the three most precious people in your life, and from that moment on you’ve never made me feel like anything less than your son.
And that means a lot to me. I have a father, who gave me life. I had a grandfather who helped raise me when my father wasn’t there. But there’s only one man who I’ve ever called Dad and that’s you.
There are so many things about you that I admire, and it feels good to know that I didn’t leave much unsaid with you. I know you knew how much I admired you, how much you inspired me, how much l love you. So today, all I want to say is what I would have said two weeks ago this past Sunday as we got ready to head back to Columbus after another weekend visit. What I would have said, if I’d known that the next time we talk would be a little further down the road than we planned.
It’s about the dishes. Well, not the dishes exactly. But about what the dishes represent. One of the greatest things that can be said about you is that you took care of your family. I know how hard you worked and the sacrifices you made to care for Barbara and Jenny. I know how you treated mom like a queen and did everything you could to make life easier for her. Even though you’d been retired for a number of years by the time I met you, you were always doing something to take care of the people you loved whether it was doing a paper route to bring in extra money or working on the never-ending lists of projects mom always had to do. Some of my favorite memories of our time together were working on some of those projects with you, like tearing down the shed in the backyard.
As the years passed and backbreaking labor in the yard became less practical you continued to find ways to take care of the people you loved. It was simple things like helping mom with the bulletin on Fridays at church, saving up our mail and passing it on to us as soon as we arrived for a visit and preparing our bedroom for our visits, with fresh sheets on the bed and towels laid out for us. And there were the dishes. I’ll always remember you standing at the kitchen sink, often in your bathrobe and often on a lazy Sabbath afternoon or late at night when everyone else was napping, working carefully and methodically to wash the mountain of dishes six adults and two kids generated. And I have to confess, Dad, I often felt like I should get up and help you. Or that I should get them done before you got to them so you could have a break. But I was lazy. I always loved coming to your house because it was such a relaxing, peaceful place to me. And so most days, I left the dishes for you and indulged in being able to read or blog or watch a video. And I told myself that I probably should leave them for you, because I knew you liked to take care of your family and that was one way that you probably gained a lot of satisfaction in doing so. And I guess that was probably true. One of your greatest joys was to take care of your family.
But now you’re resting, and I feel that the best tribute I can give you is not in words—you were never big on a lot of talk, but your actions spoke volumes. The best tribute I can give is to do my best with Jesus’ help to do what you did, to take care of our family. My tribute to you is to work hard and sacrifice whatever needs to be sacrificed to care for your Barbara as you did. And I will do the same for your grandsons “Little Elijah” and Ezra as you called them. My tribute to you is to do my part to look out for mom, as you did, to treat her like a queen and do everything I can to make life easier for her. I know I can’t ever replace you, but I can do my best to do what you did for the people you loved. So I wanted to let you know the dishes are done.
I’ll see you later, Dad. Soon, I hope.
Until then, rest well. I love you.