My Dad died in 1978, 5 days after his 58th birthday. His Dad died in 1933 at the age of 54, my Dad was 13 at that time. (His mother died when Dad was three.) Dad was a student of the English language and practiced writing at every opportunity, mostly poetry, but a fair amount of essay style prose. I don't believe he ever had anything published but we have a ton of papers with a large compilation of musings, poetry and letters that he penned during his life time. Recently I came across a letter he wrote to his dead father when he was nearing age 50----Some thirty years after his Dad had died. It follows:
" The Magic Word"
" The Magic Word"
Sometimes, I suppose, you must have held me in your arms. I was the baby of the family, the next to last baby your dear Mary had.
(In big families, the latest edition is always spoiled and there is a curious sadness - when we know there will be no more.)
So I know it is likely that in spite of worries and cares and duties and a loved wife who was dying, - you found a moment now and then to hold a baby in your arms.
The world moves and baby boys become little boys, which is something quite different. Fathers have much to do and so, when a boy gets to be six or seven, or when he gets to want to be manly, Dad stops kissing him goodbye and stops holding him in his arms, - unless he's sick.
(I remember having earaches, surely the most terrible pain any human ever had, - you were a widower then- and you'd put me in your bed, and that terrible, terrible pain would magically ease away) and now, thirty-five years after your tired lungs gave up the struggle, Your baby boy is nearing fifty. He's met a friend who had just lost his Dad recently and is crying unashamed tears.
"It was something", the friend said, "to have been able to hold the old boy in my arms and tell him I loved him."
I remember the day in the springtime, you went to the hospital. You were 54 that year. I was a manly thirteen; some ways boy, some ways man, but really neither. I said goodbye and then just stood there, I guess.
My stepmother's sister-in-law, a wise and kindly woman, asked me if I were not going to kiss you goodbye. I'm glad now, she said that. Even though I had to be reminded, I did kiss my Dad goodbye. I take some comfort in the fact that I rode a bike the ten miles to see you, several times in the two weeks you had left.
But I never held you in my arms and told you I loved you.
I hope you know I did, - and do.