Randi Kreiss

An open letter to my dad on his birthday


Randi is on a brief leave. This column was originally published Feb. 20-26, 2020.

I should point out that this is a really open letter, because my dad died four years ago.
I write because I have so much to tell him. My dad, who would have been 101 last week, loved his time on earth; he so enjoyed the rhythm and small pleasures of his days.
Every morning he woke up thinking about his first cup of coffee, and he prepared it with all the exquisite ritual of a Japanese tea ceremony. He moved slowly, and the making of the coffee could easily take 15 minutes. Once it was brewed, he filled his cup to the very brim and sloshed it all over the floor before he got to the table.
“Why do you have to make the cup so full?” my mother said pretty much every day for 72 years.

I like to think he’s with my mom, who died two years ago. They were married so long that they walked, talked, ate and laughed with a special kind of synchrony. Hard to tell where one left off and the other began.
Dad would have been gripped by the public drama of the impeachment hearings. He died the day Donald Trump got elected, and although I’m not suggesting cause and effect, he did say, “I can’t believe I lived to see this day,” before he succumbed to a major heart attack at 97.
He would read the newspapers at the breakfast table as breakfast lingered into lunch in his last years. He read the best parts out loud to my mother, and she was his cheerleader, damning the folks he saw as the bad guys and taking into her heart, like family, the leaders he loved. Their fierce loyalty to the Dems, going back to FDR, was part of what kept them chugging along. They cared. They followed the news. They talked back to the TV.
So, Dad, I’m sorry you missed this state of affairs, this unraveling of our government and erosion of our moral center, because you would have found it fascinating, even if it depressed the hell out of you. Mostly I miss commiserating with you about it all. We could go on for some time, couldn’t we, reassuring ourselves that no, the United States of America would never elect a man like Donald J. Trump, and then we did. Dad, it’s worse than we feared, but I believe in our better angels, and I’m patient. I know our country will right itself. I’ll keep you posted. Promise.
You missed the coronavirus. Missed Roku. Missed cauliflower pizza crusts.
You knew about Amazon but you missed letting it rule your life. You and Mom went to stores, right? Well we hardly do that now, because if you need anything, from the 4.0 readers you wore to rare Ethiopian pistachio nuts, you can order them online and Amazon will get them to you in hours, or days at most.
You missed some terrific books, Dad. We spent a lot of time talking about what we were reading, and even in your last months, when you were kind of dreaming your days away, you still held a book in your lap because it felt familiar. You kept saying you wanted to learn how to use a Kindle.
You missed the great-grandkids getting braces, and learning to drive, and several mitzvahs. You missed that we bought a new vacation house. I gave some thought to the idea that you might not be able to find me, but I suppose your travel rules are different. In my old place, I used to see the occasional heron on the beach or a dolphin in the surf and imagine it might be a kind of visitation.
I did see an unseasonal robin the other day that gave a wicked shake of its wing as it landed on a naked branch, and I confess, I thought of you.
Mostly, Dad, I hate the idea that you aren’t in the world, in the light, in the realm of sunrises and sunsets, just a phone call away, at the Thanksgiving table.
We all think about loved ones who have passed. Some write letters or post to websites for the departed. It all helps.
Many find that Shakespeare offered wise counsel to those who grieve when he wrote, “Give sorrow words.”

Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.