My dad didn’t often write me letters — we usually spoke on the phone (and for the vast majority of our lives together, we lived in the same place, so why would we write letters?). But when I was a freshman in college, I left my parents a card under their pillow(s) when I went back to school after visiting for Thanksgiving. (I almost always left my parents little notes, from when I was a kid — one of “my things.”) It was a Thanksgiving letter, telling how grateful I was to them for so many reasons, and how much I loved them. And my dad, rather than just phoning me, wrote me a letter in reply.
In the letter, he tells me how much joy I have brought to him and to my mother, starting from before I was born. He writes that he is proud of me, and that he loves me very much, and that he doesn’t know anyone more beautiful than I am. He reminisces about the moment that he learned I was going to be a girl, about my kindergarten play, about Glee Club concerts I sang in. I was just barely nineteen when he wrote me this letter, and already he was so proud of me. He writes that he could not imagine having a greater daughter. All the usuals, I am sure, for letters written to children by their adoring parents. But that doesn’t make this letter any less valuable to me, because I know that it represents my father’s adoring love for me, and in a universe of parents loving their children, I know that my father’s love for me remains unique and precious.
That letter still lives, inside a little plastic bag, in the big, beautiful wooden jewelry box that my parents gave me for my seventeenth birthday, in my childhood bedroom. And I have photocopies of it tucked around my apartment, and digital copies on my phone and my computer. When the conversation question “what is the most precious item you own” comes up, I think immediately of that letter (and am immediately glad that there are multiple physical & digital copies of it — none of that grabbing it before running out of a burning building nonsense for me).
And some mornings it is cold and I’ve just finished a novel and I’m on my second, now-cold cup of tea and I open the computer file and reread it, and feel my eyes fill up with tears again. And I quietly thank my nineteen-year-old self for writing my parents that card, and I quietly thank my wonderful father for writing and mailing that letter, but mostly, I thank him for loving me so much that I can still feel it today, six years to the day from when he passed away.
& I miss him every single day.