Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Dad,

I dropped your granddaughter off at school this morning and went down to Alki point to await my 11AM chat with Carrie from my Gilda's group. I walked along the pebbly beach, warm with sun, watching the birds pick through the offerings of the low tide, watching the boats come and go. I saw the morning overcast burn away, the islands displayed in all their green springtime glory, and the Olympic Mountains poking up in the distance... and I realized I really missed you at that moment.

You know I miss you all the time -- that's a given. But it was that moment when I stopped and thought to myself, I really wish Dad was here to share this. And maybe you really were there, sharing that moment. Maybe you have gone out into the ether and have become a part of all of that beauty and natural wonder that I was taking in.

What made it most acute was the fact that, were it not for your legacy, I would not be afforded the luxury, the opportunity to be walking along the beach at Alki at 9:30 in the morning on a weekday. Since there's not much I can do about the fact that you're gone, taken decades before your time, I can at least be thankful for that.

I've lived in this community for 15 years now, and for the first time, I actually stopped to read the monument to the first European settlers in Seattle, the famous Denny Party, who made landfall in 1851. 108 days from Illinois to Portland via the Oregon Trail, then 8 days to Alki by clipper. The first Seattle settlement, the oldest Seattle neighborhood. What a legacy these men and women left behind (both good and ill).

I guess any legacy has its good and its bad. Yours came with too high a pricetag. It means we are separated by the Veil, and for the rest of my mortal life, whenever I look out over the Puget Sound at the Foss tugs pushing a barge, or a yachtsman on a leeward tack, or a mob of gulls and sandpipers picking over the carcass of a crab at low tide, I won't be able to share the moment with your mortal eyes.

Throughout my young life, I learned what it meant to be a man, gentle and strong and appreciative, from observing you. Rest assured I observed your less attractive habits as well -- lest you think I'm deifying my father. We all have our share, and you were no different. What was different was how you chose to rise above everyday bullshit, well before you were ever diagnosed with cancer. For that, I honor you and continue in that tradition.

As I walked along the beach, I flashed back to a 3rd grade field trip to Elkhorn Slough near Santa Cruz, and remembered thinking, as I rode atop your shoulders, that this was the best view in the world. How we spotted blue herons and frogs and dragonflies. And how we ate wild pickleweed along with our PB&J. The thought was appropros of nothing, and yet I now walk along the beach at almost the same height and perspective, sharing wisdom and fun and memories with my own children, your grandchildren. That wisdom, that clarity, that sense of wonder and fun, those things are also your legacy.

You will have been gone for two years in a couple weeks. I just wanted you to know that you are still missed and loved and honored, and that will never change.

Love, your eldest boy...

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