Letters From Dad

Dad was never a big letter writer.

Then later in life, after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had a few serious illnesses, Dad realized he didn’t have a lot of time left. He began to “get his affairs in order” as they say. He made sure everything was in good standing for Mom. He sorted through his belongings, finished projects, made things for grandkids.

And he wrote letters. Lots and lots of letters.

He wrote to cousins he hadn’t seen since he was a kid, he wrote to his brothers and their wives, his nieces and nephews. He even wrote letters to his grown children who lived in the same city as he did. It wasn’t at all unusual that when you visited and it was time to go, he’d put a envelope in your hands, your name written in a shaky script on the front. It would be another letter telling some bit of family history, or a chart showing our ancestry, some copies of black-and-white photos of our grim-looking relatives.

My recent post on handwriting led me to read them again. Below is one of those letters. 

First, a note: As I was typing, I realized I was editing and somehow that seemed dishonest. In the end, I decided to keep things pretty much as they were, grammatical errors and all. The only thing I changed was to break up his paragraphs a bit, as his thoughts occasionally jump from one story to the next, then back again.
One other note: When he says they provided all the milk for Bruce — that’s a small town in South Dakota.

Dad with siblings
My dad is on the bottom step next to his little sister, Margaret. His oldest brother, John, is in between the twins. Dad was born in ’23, so I’m guessing this photo was taken around 1928.
A Letter From My Dad…

This letter is about things that happened over 80 years ago.

Mother was having a hard time raising her twin boys. She said she prayed every nite for help. Then Mother found she was pregnant again. She thought the Lord was going to punish her with this new baby. The twins would be 2 in August and I came along the 1st of May. The twins were still in diapers. The conditions were rather primitive on the farm back then, no running water, you did things the hard way.

Mother told me when I was an older kid what a good baby I was. At the time I never wanted to hear about it, it made me sound like a sissy. Mother said I never cryed only whimpered when something was wrong. The relatives said something is wrong with that baby, that baby don’t cry – all babys cry. Mother said I was ok and a happy kid and was an answer to the prayers to the Lord. She also said she could sit me down any place & I would be ok.

Then one day when I learned to crawl Mother heard a loud cry & found the twins stomping on my fingers & were proud of them selfs that they got me to cry. Mother thought they had ruined me & I would cry all the time, but I went back to the way I was.

The good that come from it was the twins were better behaved & watched over me & never let any thing bad happen to me. This has been true all our lives. They have always protected me. We never had any fights with them, altho they were always fighting with each other.

*****

Roger & Rolf were always very fair & kind with me except when work was involved. They would divide the jobs in 3 equal parts, they was kind enough to give me the choice of the jobs, that went along quite well. Now the milking of the cows was another thing.

We always had 20 or so cows to milk. The cows were divide in 3 parts of 7 or so cows. I again got to choose the bunch I wanted. This was the evening milking in the summer as Dad & John could stay out in the field until dark. I was never very fast with the milking. I would have 2 or so left to milk when they were done. The fact that I was 10 years old & they were 12 had nothing to do with it so they would watch me finish. The reason we had so many cows was that we had to furnish most of Bruce with milk.

*****

Bro. John was always to blame if any thing went wrong. When I was about 3 I was breaking the ice in the stock tank & fell in. I was in quite a long time when John found me floating under the ice, he was blamed for me falling in & not (praised?) for pulling me out.

Another time when I was about 3 Dad came home from town & found me layed out on the township road. He brought me to the house & looked for bruises. Then I woke up, I was just sleeping in the middle of the road. Bro. John was blamed for letting me sleep on the road.

*****

They got a very good whipping for stomping on my fingers. I wound up with a deformed finger nail & at the time it got infected and got a swelling under my arm. I was brought to a Doctor & he lanced it. This did cause me trouble later in life.

Merry Christmas
Love, Dad

Dad with brothers
Left to right, Dad, John, Roger and Rolf. We could always tell our twin uncles apart because Rolf was the one who glowered. You might think they’re all glowering, but Rolf glowered best. By the way, they were all extremely kind, gentle men. But yeah… glowering.

Dad passed away 12 years ago. I often think of the stories he told, and the way he told them. He was great storyteller.

Thanks for the letters, Dad.

Author: C. J. Hartwell

Christi lives in Phoenix with Husband, Son, Daughter, and Dog. She enjoys moonlit walks on the beach, but as she doesn't live anywhere near a beach, she's usually in bed by 9:30.

30 thoughts on “Letters From Dad”

  1. I love your dad’s letters. I was just reading his letter with the instructions on how to make his origami birds. I have many different sizes and examples of the birds. Always brings a smile of remembrance on the letters he wrote

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a beautiful post. I’m glad you got rid of the edits and left the voice as he spoke. Wrote. Such a beautiful window into the life of a precious man, the lives of those glowering men – one a better glowered than his brothers. I absolutely loved this. And it minds me to ensure that I write more letters. It is something to get better at. And sharing the stories of one’s own life, so important for those we will leave behind us if the natural order is preserved. Thank you so much for sharing this. One last thing …. sleeping in the road – hey why not 🤭

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe our blogs count as letters to some degree? But yes, more letter writing is called for, and I am all in favor of it.
      As for my glowering relatives, we always found their pictures a hoot. In some ways it looked just like them. They could be very intimidating people when you were young, but once you got to know them, you realized they were big teddy bears. Big, grumpy, lovable teddy bears. 😉
      So glad you enjoyed this!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so lovely. I could hear your Dad’s voice in these words (even though I did not know him, the authentic cme through). You have such an abundance of treasures. 🙂 I don’t have anything except my memories, and my meory has never been much good, so now 34 years later it is only the occasional “bit” that I remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your Dad reminds me of my own father, who passed away about 5 years ago. Even though his heart was failing, he could still tell stories about growing up during the Depression. I wish he had written letters like your Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this treasure with us. I love your father’s letters, his narrative so gentle and yet shows a strong life filled with love. Love for you and each family member.
    I have a treasure of letters from my father too which he wrote when I left home at 15 for further studies. I was terribly homesick but his wise and cheering letters were sustaining.
    miriam

    Liked by 1 person

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