John Boston | A Letter to Dad, Who Is Here, No Matter What

John Boston

Dearest Pops,

Sunday, hanging over the crispest blue Canyon Country sky, I saw a stratocumulus cloud. Fluffy on top, flat as a board and darkly ominous on bottom. I smiled and stared in wonder as it raced to the south, dissipating into nothingness. I started to nudge you, dear Walt Cieplik, no middle name or initial, but, you weren’t there.

And yet, you were.

I miss you.

It’s been five years this week since you — well — what? We humans have many euphemisms for dying. “Made his transition.” “Kicked the bucket.” “DIED…!” as my old dear friend Ruth Newhall would crankily admonish, AP style and what. I have a strong suspicion death does not exist. We move on. Another dimension? I couldn’t say. Another place and time? Fine. But, I’m nosy. WHERE, exactly, are you, Dad?

I miss the walks, at night, at the edge of the woods, seeing owls, hearing coyotes. Your granddaughter, Indiana, was 5. She’d skip along, so perfectly carefree. You wouldn’t recognize her now. She’s a sophomore in high school. I miss the road trips in that big, rumbling green truck. Remember Christmases? After we opened presents, you and I would take a half-day and find some snow or an ocean to inspect. Peaceful, it was.

I even miss how you so kept reminding me, in such a solemn voice: “Son. I’m worried about you…”

Dad. I’m diabetic. Everything hurts. Can’t hold onto a relationship without sticks and handcuffs. My daughter seems a solar system away and friends console that she’ll grow out of That Stage along about the time I turn 103. Friends are retired and getting pleasantly drunk on world cruises and I’m still working 60 hours a week to make $65 a week less than my bills. What’s to worry about, Pops?

See? Got you to smile.

Dad. I miss you. And, I want to thank you. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for putting up with me through all my comedies and missteps, through all the victories and simple moments.

I remember you telling me about how tough life was when you were little, living on a farm during the Depression. There wasn’t much to eat, and sometimes you ate crow (“…tough, bitter and wouldn’t recommend it,” as you described). Grandma Victoria made a pot of stew, mostly water and potatoes. There was no container for you to take a batch to school to eat. So. You walked two miles to school, ran home two miles for lunch, ran back to school two miles, then walked home two miles. I’m not as adept at math as you, but I’m guessing that’s at least eight daily miles on the legs of a 7-year-old.

Do we always remember? Or, blessedly, do memories fade away? The insistent sound of boots crunching, you marched in the snow. It was sunrise in Germany, 1944. In the closing days of World War II, the Nazis had pressed old men and boys as young as 8 to fight. I shall never forget what you described: walking past corpses of frozen children, posed in snow banks. You recalled how innocent and beautiful they were, how soft the morning light on their faces. And they, too, live on, somewhere.

When I was a young man, I envisioned a future so tantalizingly close. Someone would make the mistake of opening The Door and I would own the publishing world. Soon I’d walk through airport terminals, smiling with satisfaction at all those paperback novels in the gift stores with my name emblazoned. A beautiful and loving wife. Kids that I got to tuck in bed. Money in the bank. Contentment.

Something different came along.

Those not on the varsity might be tempted to see the last five years as hopeless, not profoundly beautiful, as they truly are.

Those final years, I got to take care of my father. Thank you, Dad.

Odd how God and the Universe have an infinite capacity to keep score and keep things balanced. You took care of me. Rooted for me. Reminded me of one of your endless and surprisingly accurate maxims: “No Matter What.”

Do the right thing.

No Matter What.

Get up and go.

No Matter What.

Finish your novel.

No Matter What.

Illness? Bad luck? Broken heart? Too heavy a load?

“Son. You’re absolutely right. Now what?”



No Matter What.

This could be a pedantic and cruel axiom, if not delivered from a kind and loving heart. Those are two of the qualities that are the legacy and profound beauty of your most wonderful generation, dear Pops o’ mine.

I do miss you. I wish you were there for a hug or a game of pinochle, Sunday football, tea before a calming fire or walk in a desert, so cool at dusk. I see you, Dad. You’re amidst the tops of trees, blowing in the breeze. You’re in the rolling wave at the beach. Sometimes, you’re here, just standing next to me.

No Matter What.

John Boston is a local writer.

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