Happy Father's Day - The Letter My Dad Requested - Hudson Valley Handymom Blog at Allrecipes.com - 304653

Hudson Valley Handymom

Happy Father's Day - The Letter My Dad Requested 
Jun. 16, 2013 1:34 pm 
Updated: Jun. 19, 2013 9:33 am

photoMy father's high school photo.

It's funny how you can grow up in your family unit and never realize that your parents are actually human beings who had a life before you existed. This whole thought struck me when one of my daughters said to me, "I don't really know anything about you even though I've known you my whole life." It's not as though any of us try to keep our "previous" lives a secret from our children. We just become Mom and Dad and that's what our children see - the people we evolve into after they join our world.

Looking back, many of us with children can't even remember what our lives were like prior to having children because it's so difficult to picture ourselves without our kids. Sure, I remember hopping in a car with my friends and cruising the strip (that's what we called it when we went down to the ocean front at Virginia Beach), but, for some reason, I can't picture my children not being a part of my life even when they weren't there.

When we become parents, there's no manual. We assume our children may be like us, but they develop different thoughts, ideas, talents, and abilities than us. One way of raising one child doesn't necessarily apply to another...and when you have four daughters (as I did and as my father did), it's hard to keep that in mind.

My father was a Texas native who met my mother when he was at the Naval Academy. Over the course of years, my father became highly involved in church and often lent a hand to those in need. No matter where he went, he was always a leader. He felt that he was blessed in life and wanted to share those blessings with others. This desire to help others often led to people living in our house which didn't go over well with me as a teenager because it seemed like an invasion of space - resulting in me wanting to do nothing but be away from the home when constant strangers were there. This is something I regret now as I'd love to go back in time, be young again, and have those moments with my family. Back then, my views were different because I felt like I couldn't be me when other people were always around my family.

People came and went. We never heard from many of them again. Even when my father had several strokes, so many of these people he helped over the years didn't even try to contact him to see how he was doing. I look at the actions of those people one way where I know my father would not think deeply about it and believe he was doing what God wanted him to do at that time for those people. That's what was in his heart - to help others.

Despite all my father may have done for others, I believe he felt he failed my older sister and me in the father department. He once asked us to write him a letter to tell him all we thought he did wrong so that he could ask for forgiveness. I never wrote that letter. I'm a parent now, and know that, despite feeling like you're doing your best, your kids can always find a flaw. The reason is that we ARE flawed people. We DO make mistakes. And, if we don't know what we did wrong, then we obviously don't need to have those things pointed out because they weren't intentional. I can only speak for myself, but I wish I had known my father more for WHO he was - his dreams, his hopes, what excited him in life...

I often thought like my daughter who said she never really knew much about me. I never knew much about my father. With the exception of knowing he was the Texas State Discus Champion Thrower when he was 16 years old, a football player, and someone who went to the Naval Academy and had a Master's degree...I really never attempted to delve into what made my father tick. All I know is what my father did by example.

My dad didn't really do anything WRONG. He was just more of an authority figure, and my view of him was more of the person I was going to get in trouble with if I was five minutes past a curfew. When I heard a woman from church refer to him as a big teddy bear, I couldn't picture the image of him like this. Plenty of people shared this view of him, but, as his kid, I saw him as the authoritarian.

Publicly, I'm putting this letter out to my father because I think he needs to realize that every kid views a parent differently. One kid will see a parent one way. Another kid will see a parent another way. As a parent, the thought occurs to me, "You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time." Everything I say or do as a parent could be misinterpreted, but the bottom line is that, as parents, we all just want our kids to turn into great adults.

I have a letter for you, Dad. I don't want to lose you in life with you thinking that whatever happened to me in life might somehow be your fault. I want you to know that I love you. I know I didn't come with a manual, and I was a more independent spirit than you probably expected. So, as it stands, being the person I am who can't have someone telling me what to do, I couldn't follow the request of the letter of what you did wrong. This is a letter about what you did RIGHT.

Dear Dad,

I wanted to write this letter to you so that you know that you were a great Dad to all of us. You provided for our family. We had more than most people, lived in a big, beautiful home and had food on the table every night.

You made it so that we could freely go to the store with our mother and buy clothing every school year and every season (even though I hated shopping and despised the clothing shopping days). We were so fortunate to be able to do this and pick out what we wanted to wear.

You made it so our mother could be home for us...which is a pretty big deal. Having someone there for you at the end of the school day means a lot.

You tried to live by example, instill morals, ethics, and values. You tried to make us believe we could live a dream because you tried to live your own dreams.

You helped people that never thanked you, and you never even looked for someone to thank you. You showed us that we didn't need a thank you or pat on the back for everything we did. Giving and the feeling of giving and sharing was thanks enough. It was about doing the right thing by others and not about what was given back to you. You believed that if good things happened to you, that they were God-given, and the best way to pay back for the blessings you had were to share your blessings with other people. You opened your heart, home, and wallet to those in need - something that few people would do in this day and age...and something that very few did back then.

You were a friend to strangers, a guide to those lost, and taught us that we can be there for other people in need.

You were a leader in all tasks you took on and taught us that we could be leaders too. You showed us that hard work paid off in life.

You recognized our intelligence, and pushed us to aim higher.

You didn't spoil us with "things" and taught us that there was more to life than material items.

You never felt a need to put on or prove anything to anyone.

What you did right was the right thing by us. What you did right was the right thing by others. What you did right was ask us to write a letter telling you what you may have done wrong...which proves you never even knew whether or not you did anything wrong.

Whatever happened to our lives was part of our destiny to make us into the people we are today. We had a path to follow too. Whatever happened, happened...whatever happens in the future will happen. As a parent, you can't blame yourself for what happens to us, but tell yourself that you did the best you could with the tools you had and what you knew.

So, Dad, you were the best Dad you could be. We had it pretty good in life...if not great. Most people I know only wish they had a father like you. You just didn't know it.

Happy Father's Day,

Jun. 16, 2013 2:37 pm
What a wonderful tribute to your father. I wrote my dad a letter when I was about 40 and a mother to 3 teens, to thank him for always being consistent and firm - not an easy task! He kept us on the straight and narrow, that is for sure! It wasn't until his final years did I even begin to understand who my father really was. After his death, as we were sorting through his belongings did I realize how important that letter was to him. I found a copy of it highlighted and underlined next to his bed, in a drawer next to his chair and in the family bible. I am glad I made peace with my father and he knew that I loved him for the person he was.
Jun. 16, 2013 4:20 pm
That's so wonderful! Thank you for sharing your story. We forget we're all human sometimes, and with that, imperfection steps in. It's NOT easy to be a parent, and we all falter along the way, but I had it pretty good. :)
Jun. 16, 2013 5:40 pm
he was good looking back then. what year was the picture taken?
Jun. 16, 2013 8:21 pm
I'm not sure of the year. I'd have to consult with my aunts on that. My guess would be around 1960.
Jun. 16, 2013 10:34 pm
Hi Donna, kinda choked me up reading your letter. I hope that someday my own daughters undergo such a reality check. Your father must be so proud. Thanks for sharing.
Jun. 17, 2013 4:40 am
Sometimes, I think it takes being a parent to realize that we all flounder around at some point when things get tough. When you have kids that can be so different from each other, there's no specific course to follow. One day, I think our own kids will realize it...just as we did. Thanks for the comment.:)
Jun. 19, 2013 9:33 am
donnam-enjoyed reading your blog. Since my dad passed away 7 years ago, I often find myself wondering about something about our family or maybe wanting to know about his past that I wished I would of asked when he was alive. I hope you will find out more about your dad if he is still alive. You will not regret it.
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About Me
I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a volunteer position), and I am not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com. Products received from advertisers are only used for experience-based reviews on my personal blog. The reviews, content, and opinions expressed in this blog are all my own. **************** By the age of seven, I would wander into the local library to check out cookbooks to make creations at home. When I became a mother to four daughters, I had a good sized family to feed. I became great with saving money and making wonderful meals without breaking the bank. I started using the original Allrecipes sites when I was in my 20's in 1997. I made the discovery by typing in "cookierecipes.com" to see what would happen. From then on, I became an Allrecipes.com addict. I didn't "officially" join until 2010, but I've been here the entire time. :) Allrecipes saved me many times over for parties, pot lucks, graduations-even my oldest daughter's college senior recital.
My favorite things to cook
I love to bake breads, cookies, cakes, and pies. I have a smoker and love to grill. Whenever I want some company, I fire up the smoker and make my own homemade BBQ sauce for pulled pork. If that doesn't get you company in NY, nothing will. I create my own recipes, but love learning from other people. I love to see ideas, promote them, and share creativity. I can't think of anything I don't enjoy making. I just love trying to make anything. Holidays are some of my favorite times of the year. Allrecipes contains the secret to my success regarding making succulent turkey (yes, I once was a dry turkey person- NOT ANYMORE). I enjoy coming up with new ideas, new ways to use products, and I always like to test out new items that hit the shelves at the stores. I consider my kitchen to be my laboratory. However, I'm not opposed to quick and easy meals when life makes the call for it! After all, life was meant to be enjoyed...and, sometimes, that means quick and easy meals!
My favorite family cooking traditions
Holidays and birthdays are my favorite times of the year. I enjoy making old family favorites and spending time together with my family. For Thanksgiving, I turned to Allrecipes years ago and discovered what putting a turkey in a brine can do. I tried it that year and never turned back. My husband proclaimed that I made the best turkey he ever ate. So, every year, I cut up all the vegetables ahead of time for the Thanksgiving meal. Then, I put the remains into a stockpot and create my own vegetable stock for a turkey brine. After soaking the turkey, I cook the turkey in a bag to make the most succulent turkey around. It's so juicy that it's hard to believe it's Thanksgiving - and there's no need to buy a special brand of turkey to get this result. I also love the old family go-to recipes. However, for stuffing, I found that making a homemade Challah bread creates the most unbelievable stuffing ever. Using a bread machine can make the whole process easier. You won't regret it!
My cooking triumphs
I started creating my own recipes when I had to live out of a pantry with little funds. I enjoy being creative, and this led to me becoming published. Later, I became an Allstars Brand Ambassador. I love the program because it let me be a part of a company that I respect and love so much in a way that I couldn't have imagined. Being a Brand Ambassador has been such a huge honor and great experience. I've met so many wonderful people due to it, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Allrecipes through roasting pumpkin seeds on the Better TV show. I just want to give a big shout out to Better TV for giving me the opportunity to represent Allrecipes - a website I've been visiting for over 15 years. Here are the links to the pumpkin seed roasting: http://better.tv/view/food--amp--recipes2-food--amp--recipes-how-to-roast-pumpkin-seeds http://better.tv/view/food--amp--recipes2-food--amp--recipes-roasting-pumpkin-seeds-part-2
My cooking tragedies
I started cooking at a young age, and most of my mistakes took place during that time period. As a child, company was constant in our home. My mother knew I loved to cook and asked if I could make some of my Blonde Brownies for dessert that night for our company. I was 12 years old, and gladly started to prepare the dish. Unfortunately, my mother was out of vegetable oil. I went to the fridge and took out some reserve oil she had filtered after using it for deep frying. I figured it was still good and added it to the brownies. That night, when dinner was finished, the brownies were brought out. I took a bite of mine, and dropped it on the plate. The company ate the brownies and stated how good they were. My brownie had a horrible taste. It was at that moment that I realized the reserved oil was from my mother frying fish. Never again did I test the waters of used oil.
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