Dear Dad, I have news

It is true. I need to tell Dad my news, even though I’m nearly 61. Next best was telling my brothers – they get it. There was something about work-related successes and challenges that our dad keenly understood. Not that Mom didn’t, but it always felt different with Dad. Much of my life I had viewed myself as so much like Mom. But after Dad found recovery, and for those decades after, I identified how much about him was in me. Dad was the one I confided in with each job change. He too expressed openly his share of work decisions, disappointments and successes. Dad and I got each other when it came to our careers. While we were both driven, I don’t think either of us shared Mom’s over-the-top high achieving self. But Dad and I did know when something was good enough. I see now how many of my success enhancing traits were shared by Dad. And I’m sure a few of my flaws. I too know that we thrived on the same things, even though we had different professions: people, collaborating, communicating and presenting.

In my collection of Dad Letters, I have several that mention a new job or a job I decided to leave. (I haven’t left that many jobs in my career.) The toughest and most toxic job I had was shortly after graduate school. As long ago as that was, I still remember the support Dad gave me when I decided to leave the job. I was fortunate to have a wonderful new offer in front of me to ease the pain.

Sometime in 2010 I submitted a creative piece to the magazine Real Simple. I suspect it was my first submittal as an adult to a non-science journal. It was rejected. So, instead, I gave the piece to Dad. True to our Writer Dad, he typed a nearly two-page letter to me after reading my piece: all this, three and half years before his death. Below are a few excerpts from his letter.

“December 4, 2010

Beloved Daughter:

A ton in a half of memories is conjured as a result of your loving and thoughtful instrospective look at our lifetime relationship……

Finally, Dede, your career. No father could be as proud as I have been starting with your MS from U of W, then that first, difficult, consulting job, four years with EPA, then the Portland consultant-training work, and finally your impressive job at OHSU. I would be so very proud when you would come across someone at the Port who remembered me. Professionally, I felt so close to you!

So, as we used to say on the baseball diamond, right back at you my darling daughter. Thanks so much for your beautiful letter and thoughts.

Love as big as the whole sky -–

Your Dad”

In May 2014, just two months before Dad died, I arranged to give a seminar at work in honor of Oregon Safety Break. I thought it would be fun to use historic photos I recently secured from John Klatt’s Old Oregon website. Even more fun was to have an historian in the crowd: Dad. Mom and Dad sat in the front row, and true to my nature (and Dad’s, I realize now) I called out to him a few times during my talk. “Any corrections from the historian?” I asked. He gave me that beautiful, famous smirk. “No,” he replied. We had so much fun that day. And Dad and Mom were proud. Afterwards I insisted my parents ride the aerial tram down and back up with me. Mom loved it but Dad’s fear of heights prevented him from enjoying the ride. That is, until we got to the bottom where Zidell was still building barges then. A favorite subject during Dad’s long career. I hope I never forget that day.

As I drove home from OHSU as my final day as an employee I felt sentimental. I thought about Dad and I changed the radio station to All Classical Portland. I know we all think of someone as we move into new times or make momentous decisions: the older we get the more likely it is that the person we remember is no longer of this earth. And yet signs come from somewhere, no matter your beliefs. For me today, appropriately, a beautiful arrangement of Danny Boy filled my car. Often this station airs songs that I remember listening to with my parents. And so. Dear Dad, I have news. You’d like to hear about it. Maybe it’s enough to sing Danny Boy today, as I imagine the letter you’d write to me. I love you as big as the whole sky.

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