By Sean Dietrich
Hey. It’s me again. I’m sure you’re busy, I just wanted to say hello. How are things? How’s the fishing up there? I thought about you today. I remembered how you used to point your truck in one direction, and drive dirt roads that led nowhere, your skinny bare arm, hanging out the window. Today, I saw kids practicing baseball in a driveway. I was driving to Birmingham. It reminded me of you, pitching fastballs through an old tire. God, that was a long time ago. Sometimes I wonder if you remember me, or if your memories died with you. Things were bad after you left. Having a father who dies by his own will doesn’t exactly make a boy popular among the sixth grade. Mama had it hardest, of course. You left her in a real mess. She should hate you for what you did. She has every right to, but she doesn’t. That woman couldn’t hate a waterbug. You and I both know you didn’t deserve her. And she didn’t deserve what you did. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about that. Sarah is all grown up. You wouldn’t recognize her. She’s got a daughter, and that means you would’ve been a granddaddy. I wonder what you’d look like as a granddaddy. I’ll bet your red hair would be white, and I’ll bet you’d still be working from whistle to whistle, dangling from iron beams, welding lap splices. Because if there was one thing you despised, it was laziness. You and I are very different in that regard. I believe laziness can be a virtue. You’d like my wife. I wish you could’ve met her. Everyone likes her. That’s because she’s speaks with a strong voice and has an I-can-do-anything-by-myself attitude. She brought me back to life. When I met her, I was tired. She helped me find my spirit. You missed a lot. In fact, you missed my whole damn life. You missed my first driver’s license, my first truck, my wedding, my car wreck, a hundred Christmases, and my first published piece of writing. Writing. I’ve been doing a lot of it over the past years. I write about everything—things I care about. I even write about you. Like I said, I thought about you today. I remembered the last few hours we had together before you flew away. We took a long drive, you wore a striped shirt, and had just gotten a haircut. Funny what people remember. I’d like to be honest with you, sir. After you left, I thought I’d never amount to anything but a sad little boy. I believed happiness was a joke.
I didn’t like you very much. But I was foolish. And I’m sorry for it. I’m okay now. We’re okay. It’s taken us a long time to get here. I have to go now. I have a nice life. One I’ve learned to enjoy. And if you could see me now, I think maybe I would even make you a little proud. I am glad you’re at rest. I hope you still think of me sometimes. I think of you every few seconds.
Happy Birthday, Daddy.