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Oh those birthday cards… a mixed up ‘about my dad’ and ‘letter to my dad’

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I wonder what others do with birthday cards and anniversary cards and letters (yes, remember those?) and Christmas cards?

If you were my Dad, you’d keep them.  Almost all of them… at least every one that came from anyone who was special in your life.

My Dad left this earthly presence a few years ago. And THAT is a story I must one day finish writing and then share.  It’s hard to doubt the existance of ‘so much more’ when one knows this story.  But that’s just a teaser. Sorry. I’m here to honour my Dad and his cards.

It wasn’t preplanned that I happened to be cleaning my basement and finally getting to sorting through these boxes only days before what would be my Dad’s 85th birthday.  I realized today though that he must have planned it this way.  He was all about birthdays… he’s making sure I get to have a private little 85th birthday celebration with him.

In my inspiration to minimize and sell my home, the basement has been attacked.  This alone is fascinating.  What happens that suddenly it is okay to get rid of ‘things’ that one has kept for so long?  that one has kept through other major cleanses?  and then one day quite out of the blue, it’s okay to ‘make this stuff go away.’

I mean, really, why don’t we make it go away in the first place? 

But alas, I know that ‘keeping’ is part of transitions.  I shook my head as I threw out a whole basket full of apple tree branches. I’d kept them for five years. I was sad to leave the apple tree at my last home that had so graciously shared it’s branches for me to make faeries wands.

And so, I had taken this collection of branches – telling myself that I was concerned about what I would do when they ran out. Where would I find more branches from magical trees?  (which of course is just silly.. all trees have their magic)  

The funny thing is I didn’t continue to make faerie wands.  So, the process of taking the branches, keeping a part of that lovely home.. was it
simply a way of not having to let go completely?  Apple branches, for goodness sake.  

But never mind.. cards. That’s different. My boxes date back to the 70’s.  My brother has more from earlier times.  And my stepmom who so graciously shared these cards with us, still has more! I wonder when Dad started saving cards.  (aaaghhh, so far I haven’t found my letters I wrote to him  while I travelled!  But if they have gone astray, I do know it wouldn’t be because my Dad threw them away!)

I wonder if Dad started saving cards after his mom died, or after my mom died when I was only nine years old.  Part of me thinks Dad saved cards as mementos for us, for himself, should it happen that some one else, or he, died.  And they did.  My brother died at age 30.  My brother’s son died at age 21.  We’ve had our losses.. I ‘get’ that feeling of wanting to save all the cards. 

And, Dad, thank you.  It’s been a few evenings of going through cards, but I’ve read every one.  I have three big bags full that will go to recycle, and I’ve saved little packages of cards for myself and others in the family.  And in that reading of cards I got to:

1. smile as always at how loved you were.
2. Be utterly and completely surprised at how many cards had tall ships on them. This was our common love.. yet we never did sail away together. Yes, we did travel far away together, and had many adventures, but never on a ship and I wonder about that now.  (Okay, there’s an answer in the story I’ve mentioned I will write about his passing… but in regular life, I wonder why we didn’t sail away)   But it was not just me that gave you cards with ships.. it was everyone!   And of course, we had our ‘ships’.. they were just smaller 16 – 20 ft runabouts that we spent our summers playing with.
3.  No surprise at how many cards had dogs on them.  (less than ships though!)   And I giggled at how many were FROM dogs! Your dogs and my dogs. ha!
4. I got to read my brother Don’s letters. Read my dear nephew Lincoln’s letters.. and report cards!  (and yours too, Shandee, if you find this and read it!)  Read notes my mom wrote.  And find my mom and brother’s passports.
5. Smile at the cards my own daughters and my niece wrote for Papa.. from squiggles to beginning printing, to teenage writing to adult. 
6. Be amazed by two of those cards in particular… ones they printed or ‘scribbled’ but had me write verses:
a. Courtney at age 5 or 6, wrote  that Papa is her star.. a star that shines down her.  And as it happens, after he died, Courtney wrote his memorial card about exactly that.  Amazing that that concept had always been with her. 
b. Megan at a very early age had me write: 

Dear my grandfather,

I love you so much. Thank you very for my booster seat.
I love you for bringing me my booster seat.
Aren’t you a darling little papa. I don’t fall out of it.
I love you so much. Aren’t you my darling and my friend. 
Love, Megan.

7. I wonder what happens in the future now that people don’t write letters.  These are a history.  No one will ever keep all the emails. ALTHOUGH in Dad’s stuff he actually had a couple of emails printed and saved!  Aww, Dad.

8. I’m happy that I got to have this amazing opportunity to celebrate your 85th birthday week with you.

It’s not just cards I’ve gotten to peruse.. there’s newspaper clippings from Canada and the States about when you won top GM Mechanic award, as well as the letter congratulating you, plus the letters arranging your award celebration and trip to Mexico.  Letters.  If they’d been emails they would have been long gone.  Okay, maybe not if they were Dad’s emails.. but generally speaking.

In short.. okay, whatever, this isn’t short….  I’ve gotten to spend time with the spirit of my Dad, by sharing all those things that were important enough for him to keep.

And now I’ve trimmed it into one small metal file box that was also his.  Just enough mementos so that one day others in the family can spend time with Papa.. but without the overwhelm of ‘so much stuff’ that it’s hard to ‘get to.’ 

Thanks, Dad.. for this time spent with you.  One day we will sail together… and most certainly ski together as we always did here.

And as for me?  Just wait til I get to my closets full of stuff… there’s a lot of cards there…. hmmm.

Readers.. I just wanted in some way to acknowledge this powerful process.. certain my Dad is glad that I am,   and so, thank you to those of you who showed up here and wandered your way through the whole thing.   And since it all started with wondering what others do with their cards, please share?  And do you still write letters ever?  I think I might just start. And if you want to share.. how do you remain ‘connected’ to the spirit of those you love who have passed on?

September 2 2010:  Happy Birthday, my precious Dad!


About Janet

Artist/writer with a tall ship and mystical twist, Certified Professional Life Coach (ICA), Master Creativity Coach (KMCC), Curator/owner of Writerly Kits, workshop leader and creativity group facilitator trainer. Outdoor enthusiast and Tall Ship sailor. Been through breast cancer and found her own tools of play, lightness, creativity, nature, thinking differently and visualization assisted healing through and after treatments. Ever ever so grateful for all the wondrous people she is surrounded by.

5 responses »

  1. I love you!!

  2. Janet, this is precious and absolutely lovely to read your flow of writing in this special blog. Holding onto precious mementos, expressing love and kindness, and sharing dreams as well as fun times. Seems as though the apple does not fall far from the tree!!

    My mom taught my boys how to make little boxes from cards. Then use them for gifts.
    Or more fun yet she taught them to poke a hole in the bottom of the box. Color a kleenex with some red felt pen to look like blood, stuff a finger through the hole and wrap the bloody kleenex around it. Then put the lid on and then surprise somebody by asking them to remove the lid!!!

    Sadly, I threw out my Dad’s letters to me as a child. I know regret that rational decision from a major move 18 years ago.

    ~A book about how to write letters! Future generations may need to remember how to do this and recreate the experience!! How magical could that be!

  3. you better believe i read it!

  4. ha ha.. glad you found it, Shandee. and Sherry, I only just found your note. thank you soo much for sharing your thoughts!

  5. … and again!


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