In my first weeks as a college freshman, nothing pleased me more than finding a letter in my mailbox. Several times a day, I would make the trek across campus to the student center, hoping to find a note from a friend or relative. Letters from home helped give me confidence to reach out to new people, even as they helped me feel closer to the ones I had left behind. Eager to keep up with news from my hometown, I opened letters postmarked from Morristown immediately. Unless the letter was from my father.
Recognizing my father’s script on the envelope, I would quickly tuck the letter into my backpack, afraid the tears welling in my eyes would betray my emotions. I was trying to be a mature and independent college girl, after all. But with just a glimpse of my father’s handwriting, I was reduced to a homesick Daddy’s girl.
Growing up, I idolized my dad. He is a minister, and in my mind there was no Bible question that he couldn’t answer. But even more impressive to me, he lived his faith. I knew he was a man devoted to prayer and Bible study because I saw that he communed with God daily. He served and counseled church members with patience and compassion, yet he never forsook his role as husband and father. He served God, church and family with quiet humility. In my young eyes, he was perfect.
Heading back to my dorm room to read a letter from my father, I smiled remembering how Daddy’s letters had helped take the edge off my homesickness during my first trips away from home. When my sister and I spent a week at summer camp together, Daddy wrote that he asked our younger brother if he missed us girls. “If the girls were here,” 3-year-old Nathan responded, “I would put them in the trash can.” Only a brother could make you miss him more with such a statement.
Daddy’s letters could always make me laugh. “I’m sorry I haven’t taken time to write yet,” he once wrote to me at camp. “We have been busy painting your room this week. It looks really nice. I think you’ll like the polka dots and stripes.” Daddy often included comic strips, sometimes jotting notes relating to camp food or new friends.
My father used his letters as teaching tools also. “Thought you might enjoy this good article,” he would casually suggest at the end of a letter. I still have many of the magazine clippings he sent me to encourage purity or strengthen my faith.
Most meaningful to me were Daddy’s heartfelt sentiments. After I served as a counselor during the week he was camp director, he took time to write me a letter. “Dear Melissa,” he began, “I was so proud of you at camp again this year. You got involved, spent time with the campers, and made me proud in every way. I do not often enough tell you that I love you and appreciate you, but I really do. I am so glad to have you as my daughter. I hope this school year will be a great one for you. Learn just as much as you can, because these years will soon be gone. I love you with all my heart. Daddy.” I treasure this letter, and all the others I received from him.
Daddy’s letters taught me the power of putting pen to paper. This is a lesson I try to put into practice today. As my children make their first tentative steps into the world, I hope that a note slipped into their lunch boxes will help them get through a day of kindergarten. As they grow, I hope my letters written along the way will encourage and teach them, but most of all remind them they are loved.
This year for Father’s Day, I’m sending Daddy a letter. I want him to know that after all these years, in my eyes he is still perfect. I hope that when he recognizes his daughter’s familiar script on the envelope, he will know this letter is one to tuck into his heart to keep forever.
Happy Father's Day!
"Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding ..." (Proverbs 4:1).