A Letter For a Dead Father
I am writing this to you,
though you have been dead for thirty years.
From your seat in the place beyond
I hope you can see these lines.
I feel I must say some things 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 was such an ass.
I believed my own petty wisdom,
and I know now how ridiculous it was,
compared to that calm, ripe, wholesome wisdom of yours.
Most of all, I want to confess my worst sin to 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 then 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 kindness.
And how pathetic, it now comes home to me,
were your efforts to get close to me,
to win my confidence, to be my pal!
I wouldn't let you. I couldn't.
What was it held me aloof? I don't know.
But it was 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,
so that I could tell you how there's no wall anymore;
I understand you now, Dad, and,God! how I love you
and wish I could go back and be your boy again.
I know now how I could make you happy everyday.
I know how you felt.
Well, it won't be long and I believe
you'll be the first to take me by the hand
and help me up the further slope.
And I'll put in the first thousand slopes 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.
Up there somewhere in the Silence, hear me, Dad,
and believe me.