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Sunday, October 03, 2004

3rd October 2004

Dear Dad,

You've been gone a month today, I'm still missing you very much. Part of me can't believe you are really gone, part of me can't comprehend it.

I know I let you down in the last year or so of your life and I hope you know how sorry I am for that. I hope you know how much I love you. I think you did before you died.

You made it to 83, you lasted far longer than anyone expected you to. You survived World War II, heart attacks, diabetes, open-heart surgery, but it was the cancer that got you in the end.

You had a good, comfortable life for the most part, though your start in life was less than ideal. I can't imagine how hard it was for you, growing up during the depression, knowing your mother died a couple of days after your birth, knowing your father abandoned you to another family.

You didn't find out until later that your father sent letters and money to you for a short while when you were a child. You were told he disappeared long before he really did. Maybe his intentions towards you were better than you realised. Maybe you're with him now and your mother as well.

The best rumour about your father was that he was a bootlegger, a rumrunner and he was killed in the line of his business. I've always chosen to believe that, as it is a far more romantic and exciting life for him to have led.

You must have needed a family growing up, more than most. I'm sure those who raised you did the best they could, but it was a foster home no matter how you looked at it. You needed your own family around you so much that when you were still quite young, you started your own.

Your first marriage yielded three children and a lot of problems for you. I'm sure it didn't help that early into your marriage, you enlisted in the military.

I remember you telling me you wanted to join the navy, but you were forced into a role in the army, as soldier. Your initial refusal meant you were locked up in the brig for a few days, your foster brother sneaking you food, your only source of nourishment. Eventually you gave in and you were off to basic training.

Not long after that, you landed in Europe, the UK if I remember correctly. It was after D-Day and you took a long train journey to Southampton, where you caught a transport to Belgium. From there, you fought your way across Europe, through Germany and beyond. You were there the day they liberated Dachau, you saw horrors I can't even imagine.

I know you killed people and I know if you didn't they would have killed you. I can remember the one story you told, of being on patrol in the woods, perhaps the Black Forest in Germany. A young German soldier jumped out of the trees and tried to fire at you, but his gun jammed. You took him down with one shot. I'm very glad you did.

You were wounded by shrapnel a couple of times and decorated with the Purple Heart as well as other medals that I can't remember. You stayed in Germany for a while after the war, you brought home many cool souvenirs. You said the war changed you, I'm sure that was true.

Your marriage ended not long after that and you drifted from job to job. You had your first job when you were seven years old and didn't stop working hard until they made you retire. You would have kept on working till the day you died, if they let you.

That's the thing about you, Dad, you were always hard working. I'm sure that's where I got it too.

You met Mom in the 1950s and got married, but I didn't come along for quite a while after that. You got a very good job not long before I was born and you stayed with that company until the last day you worked.

Growing up, you were always generous. You were relatively well-off and it showed, with nice houses, nice boats and a swimming pool. My younger brother and I wanted for nothing.

I always knew I was your favourite, a role I never truly deserved. I always thought it was because I was the first child that you actually raised, you were there for me growing up. You saw what a miserable yet bright child I was, how lazy and underachieving I could be, yet you didn't care, I was still your favourite.

You watched me drop in and out of university, you saw me quit different jobs. You also watched as I found other, better work and eventually moved away from you and Mom.

I didn't plan on being so far away from you, things just worked out that way. One day I woke up and I'd been abroad for 10 years, I had roots, I had a career, I had a partner. When Mom got sick, I tried to help, but I just couldn't be there enough.

It drove me a bit crazy, when I truly grasped I couldn't help you. When I returned to London after spending so much time with you and Mom, I went a bit mad myself. I told you as much and you just thought I was weak, that I was "a flake". It took me quite a while to sort myself out.

I was still in the middle of crawling out of my own misery when you were diagnosed with cancer. I couldn't handle visiting you then. It was selfish, it was self-centered, but it was my decision. You weren't happy about it and I don't think you ever accepted it, but I didn't come.

I spoke to you on the telephone when I could, but it got too hard and I didn't phone as often as I should have. I'm sorry for that as well.

There were times when I considered jumping on a plane, but I couldn't face it, couldn't face seeing you so ill, knowing it was the last time I would ever see you. I couldn't face your other children either. My half-siblings. They hated me before I was born and caused me more problems then you ever understood. I couldn't face them either.

So I didn't come, but at least I got to speak to you a couple of times before you died. The last good chat was about 2 weeks before you passed away, you sounded strong and clear and yourself. It was great hearing your voice, even though it was so brief.

Our last chat was 2 days before you died. You sounded terrible. I knew it wouldn't be long. You knew it was me, you said you were tired. I didn't say much more than "hello", I could hear what an effort it was for you to speak to me. The next day you slipped quietly into a coma.

I hope you died knowing that I'm all right, that my life, though it may not have turned out the way I expected, is OK. I still hope and dream that better things will come, I try to be as optimistic about life as you were for most of yours.

I hope you died knowing that Mom is all right as well. You've left her with plenty of money, she'll be well-cared for, for as long as she lives. She has people around her that care for her as well, including me. I know I can't do much, but I'll do what I can.

Mom misses you terribly and breaks down in tears whenever she speaks to me. She loves you so much, she doesn't know how she'll survive without you. Don't worry she will.

I'm sorry I let you down Dad, I dreaded your death for so very long. In the end, I chose to avoid it as best I could.

I also let you down with my younger brother. I know I promised you I would always do my best to look out for him, but he cut me out 3 months ago. I haven't heard a word from him. I don't have a clue why. At least you died not knowing this, though who knows, you might know now.

Mom says you're in a better place now. I wish I could believe that, but like you, I don't believe in any sort of afterlife. I'd love to picture you on a cloud, surrounded by people who've already passed, who loved you, but I can't. I'd love to believe that when my time comes, you'll be there to greet me, but I don't believe that for a second either. I just hope where-ever you are, you're at peace.

You taught me so much Dad, how to ride a bike, how to fish, how to drive car, how to tip, how to enjoy life, how to be a man. You were my father, my hero, my example and a day won't go by for the rest of my life that I won't miss you.

I love you, Dad, I always will.

Your son.
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