What Words Remain

Photo by Jasmin Chew / Pexels

Dia de los Muertos 2022

When my grandmother passed away a long time ago, the only words she left behind were her handwritten recipes which I still treasure. She wasn’t one to write letters or send cards.

If you’d asked me, I would have told you that my father was a man of few words. Or so, I thought. Like many men of his generation, he saw the world in black and white. No discussion or debate necessary. That’s not to say he wasn’t compassionate or didn’t have a sense of humor, but he held clear beliefs about what was right and what was wrong. No question about it; he was the boss.

It wasn’t until after his passing that my brothers and I learned what an incredible romantic he was. This was the man who earned his living first as a foreman for a steel company and later as a general contractor. A dead-ringer for Lee Marvin in his younger years, he was once asked for his autograph on the street in New York City.

Later in his life, after my mother died, my dad would often have a little notebook nearby. We noticed he’d use it to jot down daily reminders to himself: phone numbers from messages, items to be picked up at the grocery store, doodles, etc. and didn’t give it a second thought. He’d have one in the car and a couple around the house. Then all of a sudden, he was gone.

After going through all the necessary tasks to sort out my father’s estate and his belongings, we finally worked our way down to the last large box that contained all the greeting cards exchanged between him and my mother during their 46 years of marriage that they’d apparently saved, and his notebooks. We were blown away by the passionate notes (and sometimes poems) he’d written to her in his barely legible handwriting. Even the little notebooks contained a few pages of his writing about how much he missed her.

An enduring love story and a life that ended on a sweet note.

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