Tag Archives: Letters to my Father

Letters to my Father – No, I Don’t Think the Universe was an Accident

My dad was always at odds at home—he and my mom had four consecutive daughters before he got a son—and baby bro came along late, after I’d grown up and left the house. My last visit home was a combined Mother’s Day/get my youngest sister (a tomboy) ready for prom visit. With mom on hair, myself on makeup and the other two on hand making helpful comments like “I don’t understand why you didn’t go to a hairdresser—it’s like $30 and that’s for a professional,” it wasn’t long before the blowout turned into a full-on bitchfest. Bobby pins were starting to look like weapons.

A hostile hour later, when my sister emerged looking stunning, it struck me that I hadn’t seen dad, my brother or my boyfriend (who’d been roped into the visit as well) for quite some time. I ventured downstairs and realized my dad (the best cook of the family) had busied himself making soup and sandwiches for lunch. The dining room table had been set with a pretty tablecloth and flowers; I smiled sheepishly at him and he raised his eyebrows, a clear indication he’d heard the goings-on upstairs. My dad’s always had the ability to speak through his eyes—he never really had to yell, he could make us feel sorry for our wrongdoings with a single disappointed look—far worse than a lecture or getting yelled at, although those were sometimes called for depending on the circumstance. When my sister clunked downstairs clumsily in her unfamiliar heels, he joked, “Who are you? Where’s my daughter? What have you done with her?”

My siblings and I at High Park in TorontoIt’s only now that I’m in my twenties that I can fully understand and appreciate what it must have been like for him in a house full of females: tantrums, tampons and taunts. When the girls weren’t ripping into each other we’d sometimes team up on him: “Dad, get some new glasses, you look like a total dork”, “Dad, when are you going to get a new car, ours is so embarrassing”, “Honey, lose some weight why don’t you? Kids, tell your father he needs to start walking to work again.” My boyfriend says my dad is the most patient person he’s ever met.

He’s also one of the wisest. He never succeeded in making hockey players out of any of us (though this remains to be seen in my brother’s case; he currently likes to dance) but he did quote some hockey player (I can’t remember which, sorry) to my sisters and I, to lasting effect. Whoever it was said something like “Pick something you would do for free, then become so good at it that someone will eventually pay you to do what you love.” This was taken literally by my sisters and I, currently still in pursuit of our dreams.

My dad encouraged his daughters to question and to think deeply. I remember coming home from a party once and he was awake, in contemplation over something. “Do you think the universe was an accident?” he asked me in earnest. I sobered up waxing philosophical with my dad into the wee hours of the morning—not the first time, either. He told his girls we didn’t need makeup, holes in our bodies (AKA piercings) and that our opinions were of value. He encouraged our talents, artistic or otherwise. When I used to watch my boyfriend’s band practice in high school he’d ask me “Why don’t you play in your own band?” Eventually, I did.

I had a bad dream when I was little about an oversized black dog on a bicycle falling over and crushing me. Later, on three separate occasions, I scarred my face double riding, my legs when a pedal fell clean off my bike, and my hands when my wheel caught in the streetcar tracks of Toronto. Suddenly fearful of a fixed fate, I became convinced I would die biking and decided to sell my bike and never ride again. I told Dad of my resolve over the telephone. “I understand you’re scared,” he said, “but you love biking.” (It’s true and he would know, he taught me). “Yeah, but I’m going to die biking, I just know it,” I had said. “Well,” he began, and I knew I was about to see the light, “If you’re really destined to die on a bicycle, then fate will arrange it that way, don’t you think? Someday you’ll find yourself in a life-threatening situation where your only option for escape is a bike, and you’ll try your luck riding again before you just succumb to death. You might as well enjoy biking in the meantime, don’t you think?” And just like that, my childish fears were thwarted.

This Father’s Day, I will be celebrating a man who never challenged my femininity, but strengthened it with strength of purpose and passion for living.

Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere!

Letters to my Father: Just a Word of Love

Christopher Davies at Headsupdad.com

Christopher Davies as remembered by Angelique Davies

On January 25, 2007 I lost my father, Christopher Davies, to spinal cancer. I think about him often, usually at times in my life when I don’t know what to do in a difficult situation and at times when I’d normally turn to him for his help and wise advice. Times like now.

He was the chief negotiator at the Toronto Star for nearly twenty five years and was known for conducting collective bargaining in high style and with humour. And always great food would be part of it. He’d likely make my worries more bearable by saying something very Billy Bragg, like “Kid, you’ve gotta learn to take the crunchy with the smooth.” But it would hardly be a tribute to his memory if I sent out a cosmic cry for help, especially on Father’s Day. My worries will still be there tomorrow.Anyway, I’d rather share a happy memory that would make him smile. This one is about the day my father finally unloaded his forty year old daughter.

Although he fought his two year battle with spinal cancer with tremendous courage and strength, it became clear at a certain point that my father was living on borrowed time. Our focus became quality of time rather than quantity. What could I do that would make my father truly happy? My partner and I talked at some length and decided formalize our relationship. My parents had always worried that I would never marry – I’d pretty much accepted that this was entirely possible, warty troll that I am – and that was OK. But against all odds, Frank came into my life and turned out to be a keeper who happened to like warty trolls. I knew that it would give my father tremendous peace of mind to know that I had someone to take care of me. I just didn’t want to raise a glass at my wedding one year later and say, “If only my father were here to see this.” The time to set things in motion was now.

So we planned a hasty wedding, while he was well enough to attend. It was a simple civil ceremony in Welland, followed by a nice luncheon. My father made the most touching speech, entitled “Just a Word of Love”, which I share with you now. He said, “It is hard to express the love and pride that I feel. Today is so very, very special, so full of happiness. My heart overflows with gratitude that I have been spared to see the day when my lovely, talented daughter has entered into the blessed state of matrimony. I don’t just speak for myself but for Helene who left this world too soon. She would have been so proud and happy. I am particularly pleased that Helene got to meet Frank and saw the goodness in him as I do, knowing that he will take such good care of Angelique. You are both special and may God bless both of you. May the love that you have for each other keep you warm on winter nights and cool when the sun beats down. May the good Lord bless and keep you both, now and forevermore.”

It was truly the happiest day of my life and I’m glad that my father was a part of it, and that the memory of it will sustain me, even on the dark days. I miss my father, but I know he’s always with me.

To others who are missing their fathers today, I hope your happy memories see you through.

Happy Father’s Day!

Fathers Day Tribute: Sunday Morning Rock Star

Tribute to Dad on Father's Day at www.headsupdad.com

Julie Keck and Yep, that's her Dad, Henry...

Every Sunday morning at the Keck house, an epic battle was waged. No, it wasn’t my parents trying to drag my sister and me out of bed; we were up at the crack of dawn eating generic puffed rice (gag) and sitting in front of the TV watching the Three Stooges and wrestling. You know, like kids do.

The struggle started as soon as my mom woke up. “Go comb your hair, girls.” Jenny and I would pretend not to hear her the first time. And the second time. But Mom’s third request was usually accompanied by a swift twist of the TV set knob. Talk about a throw-down.

In his khaki pants and freshly ironed dress shirt, my dad would eat pancakes and drink coffee while my sister and I fought over what to wear to church. All bickering stopped, however, as soon as we heard our dogs barking at my grandma and grandpa’s car as it rolled up the driveway. Jenny and I would race to the door, because being left behind meant going to the laundry mat with Mom.

At church we had a very serious decision to make: go to “church” church with G&G or help Dad out in his Sunday school classroom. Jenny always seemed to pick one or the other with no problem. I, on the other hand, struggled with the decision every week. I knew I should want to go to church with my grandparents, because people would say things like, “Time with your grandparents is precious; they’re not going to be around forever, you know.” (Which was a little mean, don’t you think?) But what I really wanted to do was hang out with my dad. And usually, after a dramatic and completely unnecessary inner struggle, I did.

Tribute to my Father at www.headsupdad.com

the Keck Sisters, Julie and Jenny

Dad had started volunteering in for the Sunday school before I was even born, first keeping tabs on the younger children of his parents’ friends, then his peers, and, eventually, kids of some of the kids he’d watched as toddlers.

The routine was always the same. First, Drop-Off Time (aka Crying Time). Most kids toddled right in to play with the donated toys, but a few immediately burst into tears as soon as their moms and dads were out of view. Parents of those kids often poked their heads back into the room, but my dad always waved them away. If the criers wanted gushing or doting, they were out of luck. My mountain of a dad would scoop them up and let them hang out in the crook of his meaty arm while he proceeded to completely ignore their hiccupy tantrums. Dad would talk to other kids (the non-criers), build amazing Play-Doh animals with one hand, and only check in with his new best friends once the sniffling had stopped.

Part of the reason this move worked was because the kids wanted to play with the Play-Doh and partly because my dad looked like Santa Claus. Kids who had just graduated from the 1-yr old room would often spend their first few days with my dad staring at him. Soon they’d work up the nerve to touch his fluffy grey beard, pinch his red nose, or even poke his big belly. He knew what the kids were thinking, and he never tried to correct him. Even now when a little one eyes him from across a crowded restaurant, my dad will raise one eyebrow and nod very slowly, reducing the kid to wide-eyed wonder.

Play Time ended with Clean-up Time, which lead swiftly into Story Time. My dad would perch on a tiny chair that really should not have held his weight, possibly still with a pensive crier on his arm, and read a short Bible story from a colorful picture book. Whether there were 3 kids in the room or 20, my dad would quickly have them in a trance. His warm and soothing voice would have put them to sleep if there’d been mats to lay on.

After Story Time came Music Time, during which Dad would lead the kiddos in a series of animated finger plays, including “Tick-Tock, Tick Tock” and (for the more advanced) “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” As soon as he finished one song, one of the older 2-yr olds would yell out another one, eager to keep the show going. From the back of the room, this crowd was hilarious and wonderful: a massive man on a tiny chair leading a crowd of ankle-biters in song. My dad was the biggest rock star on the Sunday school circuit, and more than one kid had a breakdown when it was time to move up into the 3-yr old room.

The hour always flew by. A few minutes before church let out, my dad would get all of the kids to sit at little round tables to receive their own kid-sized communion. Two or three Nilla Wafers or Saltines + a tiny cup of Hawaiian Punch or Kool-Aid. Then parents started to trickle in (the younger parents first) to retrieve their red-mustached, sugar-boosted kids. Most were carried from the room still pointing at my dad. The cutest part? Hearing tiny voices saying “Henry” all the way down the hallway and out the door.

Yep. Henry. That’s my dad.

About the Author:

Julie Keck was born and bred in Southern Illinois about 20 miles from St. Louis and just high enough on the bluffs that she could see the St Louis Arch from her grandparents’ back yard.  She’s lived in Chicago for the past 10 years but still misses the Arch.  Julie is a freelance writer and film maker whose latest screenplay, TILT, is slated to be directed by Phil Holbrook in Minnesota this fall.  TILT is a dramatic thriller set in Brainerd about a father trying to reconnect with his daughter and set things right after an unthinkable event.  Julie writes with her partner Jessica King under the name King is a Fink.  They also produce short films, several of which are currently on the film festival circuit.  For more information about TILT, go to www.Tiltthemovie.com.  To learn more about other King is a Fink projects, check out kingisafink.com.

This father’s day, we’re going fishing!

Headsupdad.com - This Father's Day, we're going Fishing!

We caught a fish as long as my arm that weighed about 13lbs!

Do you remember when I’d write you poems like these for Father’s Day?
And I was probably about 7 years old
Dancing around when you’d come home from work…

Ever since I was young, I have loved going on fishing trips with my dad, even if it meant getting up at 6AM. It’s been a few years since we’ve gone, but I still remember how to cast and reel in a catch, so I think we’ll be okay.

For years my Dad took me to the Outdoors show, and fishing competitions just to spend some time outside with him. I remember the times I’d cast my line and hit a rock, and quietly wait to mention something, until he’d look over and laugh saying “I don’t think you’re line is strong enough to reel that rock in”. Countlessly untangling my fishing line, and unhooking the fish I’d caught brought us together, and we became voyageurs of the seas! (errr… Georgian Bay).

The moment I will never forget is at a fishing competition we went to when I was about eleven. We set up our chairs on the dock and put the fresh bait on the hook, ready to reel in that $1000 trout! A couple of hours had passed by, and I was so frustrated that we had not even had a nibble on our lines, I started to complain and wanted to go home. My dad insisted we stay for a little bit longer, because it was a nice day and we had nothing to rush home to. After about an hour of pouting I fell into a deep sleep, with my hat over my eyes.

KIMMY! I awoke abruptly to my dad hovering over me trying to grasp my rod, there it was, the big bite we had been waiting for! I was so startled and quickly my Dad and I brought in the fish together. It was huge to me, probably weighing about 13 pounds, I was grinning from ear to ear as we brought him in and up on the dock. My dad could not believe I had fallen asleep and managed to catch a trout, because he didn’t even get one. I bragged the entire ride home, claiming I was just a natural, and the fish gravitated to my fishing approach, he just smiled.

It seems like many years ago, but I still remember it vividly. It’s the moments that are spontaneous and unplanned that make for the best memories. And by the way, it wasn’t the $1000 trout we’d caught, but we didn’t care.