I am writing this to you, though you have been dead thirty years. From your seat in [heaven] I hope you can see these lines. I feel I must say something to you, things I didn’t know when I was a boy in your house, and things I was too stupid to say.
It’s only now, after passing through the long, hard school of years, only now, when my own hair is gray, that I understand how you felt.
I must have been a bitter trial to you. I believe my own petty wisdom, and I know now how ridiculous it was, compared with that calm, ripe, wholesome wisdom of yours. Most of all, I want to confess my worst sin against you. It was the feeling I had that “you did not understand.”
When I look back over it now, I know that you did understand. You understood me better than I did myself. Your wisdom flowed around mine like the ocean around an island. And how patient you were with me! How full of long-suffering and kindess. And how pathetic your efforts were to get close to me, to win my confidence, to be my pal!
I wouldn’t let you. I couldn’t. What was it that held me aloof? I don’t know. But it is tragic -- that wall that rises between a boy and his father, and their frantic attempts to see through it and climb over it. I wish you were here now, across the table from me, just for an hour, so that I could tell you how there’s no wall any more; I understand you now, Dad, and...how I love you, and wish I could go back and be your boy again.
I know now how I could make you happy every day. I know how you felt. Well, it won’t be so very long, Dad, till I am over, and I believe you’ll be the first one to take me by the hand and help me up the further slope. And I’ll put in the first thousand years or so making you realize that not one pang or yearning you spent on me was wasted.
It took a good many years for this prodigal son -- and all sons are in a measure prodigal -- to come to himself, but I’ve come. I see it all now. I know that the richest, most priceless thing on earth, and the thing least understood, is that mighty love and tenderness and craving to help which a father feels toward his boy. For I have a boy of my own. And it is he that makes me want to go back to you and get down on my knees to you.
...Hear me, Dad, and believe me.
The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
A father is a man who is always learning to love. He knows that his love must grow and change because his children change.
He was not the sort of father that you read about in books;
He wasn't long on language and he wasn't strong on looks.
He was not the sort of father that you hear about in plays...
He was just a human father, sort of quiet in his ways.
Just a sort of family father, fairly sound in wind and limb,
Always ready at the word and not a nastry trick or whim,
Seldom off his feed and never had to be turned out to graze,
Safe for any child to drive and broke to harness forty ways!
Steady at the bit was father; found a lot of fun in working;
Threw his weight against the collar; seemed to have no time for shirking.
Used to smile and say the feed-bin kept him steady on the track;
Safe to leave him without hitching; he'd be there when you came back.
No, he never balked at working, but when he was through it once,
Right down to the grass was father, with the children doing stunts.
Everyone would pile upon him and he'd welcome all the pack,
But I'm wondering, after playtime, did we stay there...on his back?
Wasn't strong on dissipation; said his "gambol on the green"
Was to fill the platter quicker than the kids could lick it clean,
And the next best game he knew of was an equal one to beat;
It was keeping leather covers up to the supply of feet!
Mind! his tailor never told him, when his Sunday coat was fitted,
That his wings necessitated wearing shoulders loose or slitted,
And he wasn't any martyr; said that life and love were good
And no man deserved his dinner if he wouldn't split the wood.
Always on the job was father, plugging quiet-like and strong,
Never making any noise, but helping all his little world along;
And to think...Lord! ain't it funny you can see things years and years
And you never know they've been there, till your eyes are blind with tears!
Quit his job one day and left us, smiling as he went away;
Eulogy seems all so foolish; what can anybody say?
Seemed like even in his leaving he was saving someone bother
For the one word in the granite which is over him is...Father.