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A Father’s Day Letter To My Dead Father

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I was going to journal today about author Annie Dillard and I typed out five pages on the topic of how writers can learn from some of her writing and advice.

But after seeing the thousandth reminder about Father’s Day this weekend I decided it was time to surrender to the topic that has been on the back of my mind for the last month, namely my dad.

Writing advice from Ann Dillard can wait a few more days, right?

Dad, first, Happy Father's Day. I think most people stop celebrating that day after their father has died but I still mark this day. Like it or not, sons who have lost their fathers can’t stick their head in the sand and pretend Father’s Day doesn’t bring a flood of memories to the surface.

I’ve been thinking today about what I wanted to tell you. It has been more than five years since you died.

A lot has changed. Do you get the news up there in Heaven? Is it via Google? Newspapers? I know you liked to read two or three daily newspapers, a habit – one of many – that I picked up from you and continue to this day.

Well, in case you do not get the news up there here are a few things that will tickle your fancy. Remember Arnold Schwarzanegger, the action star? Well, he’s your governor now in California. Mom voted for him and then acted surprised when he was about as good at governing as he was at acting.

I thought it funny that she voted Republican. I was always amused that on election day.you would vote Republican and she would vote Democrat and then, having tied up the votes, I’d take relish on voting Democrat. I thought that particularly funny considering how you met: at… well, I was going to say it was a party where people were watching the elections and you were heart-broken that Nixon lost and mom was ecstatic that Kennedy won. But did people really have elections focused around parties focused around elections? If so, boy have things changed.

These days more Americans seem to vote for an inane show called American Idol than in elections. One t-shirt I spotted the other day which said “Idle American” summed it up well. I’ve been considering suggesting the presidential candidates go on American Idol since that may be what it takes to get all the non-voters off their butt and get involved in the political process.

Let’s see, what else is new? Remember how you seemed to hate Hillary Clinton and I gave you a hard time as I struggled to determine whether you were being sexist (maybe), parroting Rush Limbaugh (probably) or whether you truly hated her (I doubt it). Well, now she is running for president. You may be gone from the political scene but there are still many who think about her as you did and I do not think there is anything she can say or do that will convince Hillary-haters to give her a chance.

This all reminds me how much I miss our conversations. I used to get so mad that you would not express emotions to me. I promise I won’t talk again about how much I longed for you to say the words “I love you” or “I am proud of you.”

Instead we would debate the news, often political issues, and while I’m not sure either of us ever really budged in our positions I think I learned a lot in the process. That reminds me that there are a few things I want to thank you for:

1. Your work ethic. You were from a generation which some say expressed their love for their family by working hard and bringing home the paycheck. I don’t know about all that but I am one hard worker. In fact right now I’m technically unemployed but I am working hard still as a volunteer, as a writer at websites, and as a student.

2. Getting me reading. I doubt you would ever say anything as abstract to me as that you love, value and treasure words but I think you did and I know that I do. I find it funny sometimes that while I spent many years trying hard to be as different from you as possible I ended up much more like you than I am different from you. I have a black and white photo of you sitting at home reading the newspaper. Were you to walk into my favorite coffee houses (don’t ask – the coffeehouse trend is a whole ‘nother story, dad) on most evenings you would find me reading newspapers and looking not that much different from how you appear in that photograph. Remember how you had stacks of magazines – some more than one year old – that you vowed you would get to as soon as you had time? I have three months of magazines in a bag that I’ve vowed I’ll get to when my classes are over.

3. The value of education. Remember how I would go with you to Cal State Los Angeles University as you would teach on Saturdays but then I’d get bored by your lessons on engineering and go play soccer instead? Remember how you were so disappointed by my decision to go into journalism that you promised you and mom would pay if I ever wanted to make a career change? Well, um, I did. I’ve entered the education field. Surprise? Ironically mom was one of the biggest opponents of this decision but she did come through with fulfilling your promise. I later realized my interest was more in special education than traditional classroom teaching.

Okay, I feel better now having thanked you for those three things.

While you have been up there I have obviously been getting older. I still think of myself as a child at heart but children seem to think otherwise. You know you are getting old when children you work with not only ask how old you are but then, when you make the mistake of answering their question, tell you that their father is younger than you are.

I can already feel the schisms that will become the next generation gap, not to mention the knowledge gaps between my generation – or at least me – and the teenagers I work with these days.

Three anecdotes come to mind which I figure you would appreciate.

Remember Woodstock? Yeah, yeah, I know you hated the hippies and were pretty oblivious to the 60s because you were so busy working. But I’m sure you still know what Woodstock was?

So recently a teenager asked me the name of Snoopy’s bird friend on Peanuts. I googled it and told the teenager that the bird’s name is Woodstock.

“What is Woodstock?” she asked.

“You don’t know what Woodstock is?”

“No, what is it?” she said.

My mind reeled and I’m sure my mouth was ajar. Well, I began, it was a huge concert at a farm in New York.

“There are no farms in New York, silly,” she said. I realized her conception of all of New York came from what she knew of New York City.

I decided it wasn’t worth it to try to explain to her who played at Woodstock and what the festival was, let alone what it meant and symbolized.

But it did remind me of a time when, working with some students with discipline problems, one asked me if I knew what “Purple Haze” was. I told him I was pretty sure Jimi Hendrix was talking about drugs in that song and not, say, purple socks.

That student pronounced me cool and ever since I’ve been known there as “that cool sub.” The students attitude and respect toward me immediately improved.

So it is that now it is not unusual for me to encounter teenagers and one will say, “Dude, I think I know you. You subbed for us.”

I’ll say something cocky like, “Was I cool?”

Yeah, the guy will say, you were.

“Then, yeah, that was me.”

It’s a pretty cool feeling.

One final anecdote, Dad, then I’ll finish up this letter, dad.

Remember Nancy Drew? Ok, yeah, dad, I know you didn’t read Nancy Drew. Heck, I think the only fiction I was ever able to convince you to try was Tom Clancy and, boy, did I come to regret my endorsement of him as his books steadily become worse and closer in size to the submarines he was so apt to describe in more detail than necessary, at the expense of providing depth for characters.

Anyway recently I was with a group of teenagers when we saw a preview for a movie version of Nancy Drew.

Why am I telling you this? I think it’s because, just as you used to vent against how my generation seemed to know too little about prior generations and history, I’ve found myself saying the same thing thing about the generations younger than me.

Speaking of which I have to ask if you regret any of the movies you took me to, or how you taught me how to sneak into two or three movies at a theater when we only paid for one?

You took me to see Gandhi and I decided to become not only a supporter of non-violence but also a pacifist. You took me to see my first R-rated movie called So Fine and I learned that just because a movie is R doesn’t mean it’s actually any more interesting than the PG movies.

I am chuckling now as I recall the time you took me to see Dead Man Walking. I though the movie was great and so did you, even though you were for capital punishment and I was opposed to it. It turned out you that thought it agreed with your position on capital punishment while I thought it supported my position.

Well, dad, with a smile on my face as I type this at Fridays, I am going to bid you adieu.

I miss you.


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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • mpumi

    i lost my mom when i was 3years n i didnt have a bond with my father everytime my friends talk about their father’s or both of their parents i feel left out this thing is realy hurting me anyone who have been throught the same situation please give me an advise

  • jim

    loved your letter to your dad, thank you for posting it

  • Scott Butki

    Hi Christopher. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like that this has become a communal way for people to say some thoughts to their dad.

    I wrote another piece about missing my dad here

  • I lost my father when I was just eight years old, so I’ve never really got into the whole Father’s Day thing.

    I still miss him though and cherish the few memories I have.

    Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

  • Scott Butki

    well, when i saw by email this item was revived i thought oh maybe someone else is also in a funk over fathers day with a late father. But it seems you have a different agenda.

  • Frank Faontaine

    My father was MURDERED by the tobacco pushers and their ILLEGAL weapon of mass destruction known as the TOBACCO DRUG.


  • makayla

    yo yo life is better now

  • stEla May

    ahm. .scott. .ahm. .relly,ure an american . i am a filipino.a college student. .what do you mean by unitarian universalist?

  • you are quite welcome, sohail

  • Sohail

    @ scott: Thank you my friend.

  • Sohail

    @ stEla May. I am from Pakistan and currently based in Kuwait for the last 3 years nearly. Thanks and yes you can be my friend and God Bless You too. Regards

  • stela, I am american but not christian.
    I am a Unitarian Universalist.

    Sohail, my condolences.

  • stEla May

    hi sohail. .were you from??i waqnt you to be my friend,if you dont mind..
    GOD bless you!!

  • Sohail

    My father expired on 1st Jan 2005. He was gone in matter of minutes after suffering a heart attack. I love my father very much and I never thought that I could miss him so much. Most of the time I had taken him for granted and never thought he could exit our lives in just seconds. I learnt one thing the day he expired and that was; one should apprecaite every single moment of life specially with family. The time I was informed of his death I was in a state of shock and could not move my limbs. I wanted to cry loudly but I could not cry. Later that night I cried and as dawn drew the next day after his death, I did feel him kiss my forehead and I woke up to feel that he had come to bid me farewell. I knew I had lost him but I was not prepared to accept the fact. He was perfectly fine when I spoke to him the night before his death and that was the night of the new year and his last words to me were ” God Bless You” . Why did he have to leave us. My family, specially my mother was devastated.I just wish I had hugged him more often. I was 43 at the time of his death and well settled in life in terms of career and family. Even todate I miss him so much that every time I think of him I have tears in my eyes. I know God must have loved him very much for the man he was and thats was one of the reason he had to go. Thank God I never caused him any pain but the love and caring he gave us, I try every day of my life to imitate that towards my children. I dont think I can come near to what he did for us as a family. The Man was honest, sincere and loving to the core. I know he is in heaven and whenever I miss him I feel he is with me. I still miss him holding my hands when we used to cross the roads and he used to wait till the time I had walked inside the school. I know I was very fortunate to have him as my father and I know he was a gentle soul. May God Bless him always. Love you dad.

  • stEla May

    hi Mr. Scott,
    i really admire and appreciate the letter above,can i ask some question? uhmm.are you from America? and a Christian too?
    forgive me for asking this question.
    May God wil continue bless you. you made me inspired ’bout the letter.

  • stela, thanks

  • stEla May

    . .this letter really touches my heart,i could remember the last time when i have beside of my lost father,he’s leaving me when i was 16,i am 18 yrs old now and its sad to say that i couldn’t see neither visit his grave.i miss you so dad,.if i could turn back time and enjoy those moments when im with you.

  • makayla

    its hared me and my dad had the same birthday so thats really hard

  • makayla

    hey dad i love u and ill send u a blone on our birthday and i love u so much and tell gm i love her to and scoitt sorry scoitt dont no how to spell ur name mom never told me and scoitt i love u so much i never got to see u but i no i am going to see u one day and ill love it but i really love u scoitt and i cant belive it i miss all ove u and scoitt u got to see gm and dad u did to

  • Scott Butki

    thanks for the compliment

    and thanks for doing this:
    Having childern at such a young age i will tell them I love them everyday and think of your loss and growth.

  • mikejgold

    For what is is worth I googled, “i am lost as a faher and do not what to do” although I’m still here i face sruggles…I love my childern very much and being a man of little words I am truly lost.

    Having childern at such a young age i will tell them I love them everyday and think of your loss and growth.

    thx for putting this into reality…

    advise encouraged.

  • Scott Butki


  • makayla

    i cant help but to cry some time i cant help it im adhd but no h

  • Scott Butki

    i love my dad and i’m glad you love yours too

    sorry about the gender question

  • makayla

    kristi i no it is really hard all i can say is hang on for the ride

  • makayla

    and dad i love u so much and i no josh brent and mom does to so im dost say i love u and tell bro i said i love hem and gm bye

  • makayla

    thank u so much and im a girl

  • makayla

    i houp u love ur dad plz do

  • makayla

    i dont care how i see hem i dost want to see hem i would love to go see hem but i cant and its not fare i hate it but i still want to like to see my dad but dost let me tell u if ur reading this love ur dad even when u get mad at heam love hem u never no what could hapen trust me

  • Scott Butki

    m, i cant tell from your name if you’re a boy or girl but i argue there’s nothing with either gender crying.

  • Scott Butki

    divya, your words are touching

  • Scott Butki

    tell your mom. its ok to cry.

  • makayla

    but plz tell me something cause my mom tells me to tell her but i cant i dont want to watch her cry when she crys i cry so i need help should i tell my mom plz tell me or not

  • makayla

    and i lost my brother to when he was a babby and i never got to see hem soo dad i love u and dont worry about me

  • makayla

    i am 9 but i lost my dad to and i got to see heam but i dont remebere seeing hem

  • Divya Gunasekar

    Hi dad,
    Happy fathers day first of all dad, i miss u so much for which i have no appropriate words to explain how much i miss u. My life has changed a lot after your death with the surrounding world, but am no stronger than that day when i got scared of a dog & held your hand for support & the sense of strength i felt could not felt by me any more for i don’t have you. Iam proud & happy to have you as my dad and i don’t think so anyone would get a dad like you. I do wish i can see you only once more in my life, i don’t know whether this’ll be possible but i do hope still. Miss u dad but i’ll not make you feel bad for anything i’ll take care of everything.Take care & keep laughing as you would always do:))))

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks for sharing that, michael.
    here’s what i posted at facebook today:
    Happy father’s day to all fathers. A tough day for those of us without living dads. Do me a favor today: tell your dad (or, more importantly, dads tell their kids) that you love them and are proud of them)

  • Michael P

    Its only been a few months dad but I thought you were immortal, in this life. I can’t see you but I feel you are happy and with past friends and relatives helping you through this transition by God and Jesus. Mom’s doing better than we thought she would. Its as if reality has struck her that afterlife brings us all together again. I,m so mad at Rich for not forgiving me. I’ve tried so hard but when he ignores me I just become more upset and hateful. Thats it I think – we’re both holding onto hate with help from Christina and her mother. I don’t want to live without them. Bim is pissing me off too, he thinks his decisions are blessed instead of using common sense. If ther is any way please help us. I’m starting to hate Bim now too. I just want to leave and drink myself stupid.

    I love you Dad and have a feeling all will be OK with time and keeping my mouth shut.

    I love you, God and Jesus,

  • Scott Butki

    silas, thanks – good words:

    “To all the Dads out there — celebrate life. And to those who can only remember their Dads — do it with joy.”

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks for the comments. I tried to make a positive out of this situation, can find a positive out of it. In my case namely making people tell their sons and daughters that they loved them – i wrote about that over here.

  • Hellen

    Piece of advice, the best present u can give a Dad is access to the kids!! MY FATHER was a true definition of LOVE…NICOLAS MDUDUZI MDEE NYEMBE REST IN PEACE

    I NEVER knew him until I WAS 6 YRS old, but my first glance at him was love at first sight, I WILL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME WE WERE REUNITED, he held me and kissed me, I remember the tear he shed when he first saw me after I HAD BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM, THE FIRST 5 YRS OF MY LIFE, a long time, at age 6-i was still innocent, didn’t know that this world is full of EVIL I HAVE SEEN AND STILL EXPERIENCE IN MY LIFE.




  • Scott, it’s amazing how Providence works in mysterious ways. My Dad will be 81 next week and in all probability it will be his last birthday. He’s slipping away, in the final stages of Alzheimer’s coupled with macular degeneration. And to make matters worse he is deaf. My greatest fear is that his last days will be confined to a silent, dark world. Perhaps in this case the scourge of Alzheimer’s is a blessing. All of that being said, this is Father’s Day Weekend 2010. Our world is in turmoil – our collective fates uncertain. So, Scott, I salute you for this 3 year old piece which rises up at the most appropriate time. To all the Dads out there — celebrate life. And to those who can only remember their Dads — do it with joy.

  • John Wilson

    My dad died in 1966 when I was 30 and I still think of him almost every day. He was a fine man. If I’ve ever done anything right it was because of his example. Now if only he’d tied my crazy mother up in a chair and stuffed a gag in her mouth we’d have all been better off. But he was non-violent.

  • Scott Butki

    Sandy, thank you very much for your comments.

    One thing I’ve noticed is over time all my criticisms and problems with my dad now seem so minor and all his attributes seem more important and more appreciated now – they made me what i am today

  • Sandy

    Wow Scott. It was a very extremely beautiful letter. My daddy died on September 19, 2009. This will be my first father’s day without him. I’m 23 years old & I was totally a daddy’s girl. It’s extremely tough — especially b/c tonight I have to help my husband find something for his father on father’s day… and deep down inside, I’d like to be shopping for my daddy too. I can’t agree with people who say Time takes the pain away or even the comment that — Time will make you heal. I believe that time only makes it more real. My daddy was a wonderful man & I know that he knew that. He was my hero, my role model,& a person I looked up to. He wasn’t perfect by no means but he didn’t allow his imperfections to claim who he was. He was he & that’s all there was. My daddy loved to lecture, loved to smile, and loved to tell me how to live right. He was extremely smart & I wish now, that I had listened to him more often. My daddy was my best friend — he was always there to listen to me when I had a problem. We would even go out Karaoke together. We loved to sing.

    Time only makes it more real. The memories remind me of what he was & who he was. And every day brings a new realization that he’s never coming back to this earth. I will never hear his voice, see him dancing in the kitchen, or even walk up to him and give him a hug. I miss my daddy…. I can only look towards the day that I will see him again in heaven and even though, that brings a little comfort. The fact that he isn’t in pain anymore helps too.

    I remember right after they pronounced my daddy dead & I went into the hospital room & saw him lying there … the only words I could say was… I miss you already. And I did.

    Thank you for your story & I hope you don’t mind me ranting on and on about mine.

    -Sandy D.

  • Scott Butki

    Malika, Thank you very much for the comment. Sorry for your pain and sadness.

  • malika

    this lettler is very heart touchin i lost my dad whn i wwas 50days never got to see him i really wanted him too be by my side but he s nt here it been 17 yrs now widout him life is incompleted 🙁 i miss u daddy

  • Rod

    This letter brought some tears to my eyes. I’ve lost my father earlier this year and this is the first father’s day without him. I miss him terribly and although i do not write him letter, i do visit his grave at least once a month and talk to him over there – and like you, i try to keep him updated with how life is treating me. rather than buying a card, i always made him with my computer and i’m thinking of doing something similar this year too and place it on his grave. this is tough.

    thank you for your letter. thank you for letting me that i’m not alone. thank you.

  • Brad

    My father died a little over 9 years ago on New Years Day. I’m 21 now. I went to his grave once, maybe twice. I can’t ever talk about him. And every New Years I can’t help but get extremely intoxicated and depressed. I just can’t seem to ever accept it. I can’t even seem to settle down with anyone in fear that we will have kids that I will die on. And in turn put them through the same thing I have and am still going through.
    This letter was amazing. You talk to him as if nothing ever occured. It’s in a way inspirational. I only hope maybe some day soon I can even visit my father for the first time in 8 years.

  • Scott Butki

    Thank you. Good luck with the letters.

  • What a beautiful way to keep in touch with your father. I just lost my father in November. This was the first father’s day without him. It was tough. We visited his grave site but to me he is not there. He is more in my heart than anywhere else.

    I think writing him letters would be a wonderful “new way for me to love him”. Thanks for the idea.