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Dear Dad: A Few Thoughts

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Dear Dad,
It has been a while since I last wrote you. Funny how I write you more since you died. We used to write so many notes to each other when we lived in the same house. That may be yet another way, in addition to those I've previously articulated, that your actions, as I grew up, led to me enter a writing career. I wonder what would have happened had we just spoken more instead of leaving each notes?

I've been thinking about you lately for five reasons:

1) Fathers Day is on Sunday. It has been more than five years since you died of complications of melanoma and there are times when I am calm and collected about it all. Then there are times when I hear someone talk about cancer or about their plans with their father or, right now, what the perfect gift is for Father's Day and then I feel like I just got punched in the gut. 

The other day I was tempted to write an obscenity-filled note to Hallmark over how their cards and ads make us fatherless folks feel. Then I thought about designing my own card to submit to them. Then I decided I was wasting too much time on something trivial in the big scheme of things.

2) I miss debating big weighty issues with you. This current debate about the war on Iraq and the torture is one where I am pretty sure we would be in different camps. So it was that I thought of you while watching a documentary I just reviewed called The Road to Guantanamo. Do they have movie theaters up there in heaven? If so, go see this and drop me an email to let me know your thoughts. I'm sure you have the Internet up there, probably with all of you on wireless accounts. I thought it was pretty well done but disturbing. I'm curious what your take on it would be.

3) I was thinking about you earlier tonight when I received this email announcing I was on a web page called 25 peeps. At first I thought it looked like a vanity contest with the attention going to the cute ones. It reminded me of the times we'd be watching television together and you'd pause while channel surfing to ogle some woman. I now think the site has more credibility than that, but is still the kind of site that you would find more interesting than I would.

4) But what really got me thinking about you was two things: Preparing to become a father myself and the habits I picked up from you. Lately I have been working with a retarded boy and we play checkers, shoot pool, go bowling. You know, the kinds of things fathers and sons do together. But the thing is, I don't recall doing those things with you. Did we? Or am I just blocking it out? Either way, some who see me have told me they assumed I have a teenage son and they are impressed with how well he and I get along.

I'm not sure how to take that. I think it's a compliment, but I'm not sure if that is the intent. I have been told more than once that I will be a good father when the time comes and I owe some of that to you. I made some life decisions in response to your life, trying as hard as I could to avoid that "Like father, like son" saying which can be a curse or a blessing, depending on your perspective.

When you died, though, Dad, I realized I couldn't rebel against a vacuum and it didn't make much sense to try to be different from you when I was gradually becoming more like you. Fortunately the qualities of yours that I was seeing in myself — curiosity, an interest in photography, always asking questions and pushing myself to try new things – were those things I liked about you.

5) I have been thinking about how you got me in the habit of recycling. But I wonder now if your motivation in teaching us was not to save the earth but to make money. You would show me how to collect cans and newspapers and take them to a recycling plant. The plant then would give ua a tiny amount of money for the cans and newspapers. My how times have changed. Few plants, none I know of, pay for newspaper or cans anymore.

Back in Riverside, California, where you lived with Mom until you died, there are now separate bins for recycling. Out here where I live, though, you can get recycling if you are at a house but not if you are a business or a non-profit business. I decided to take matters into my own hand. Well, hands actually, since I need to use both hands to carry newspapers from one or two businesses I frequent to my truck. Later I recycle the newspapers at bins placed around the county.

When asked why I am doing this I have a simple response: Recycling is good and my dad would do what I'm doing if he were still alive. I remember, Dad, how you would stop in the middle of a road to pick up a newspaper, magazine or aluminum can and I would conclude:

My dad is crazy but weird in a good way as we would later exchange the products for money.

Dad, you are gone but not forgotten. May it always be so.

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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.
  • Very nice. Sounds like you’ve had this in you for awhile/.

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks, Matthew. I’ve been thinking on it for a few weeks.

  • Quite an out pouring Scott. Very well thought out.

  • barb

    Number 4) Different dads share different things with their children. I always enjoy the smell of my father’s woodshop and sailing with him. I enjoy the outdoors with my husband and children.
    Different guys, different interests, but they all pass on a bit of themselves that are not the same as what a mom would think of to do together.
    I think one of the best parts of men is being able to see the big picture, and that’s a gift you have already.
    You’re making a great father-figure for kids already, Scott!

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks, A.L. and Barb.