Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Letter to the Folks ... Ten Years Later

September 24, 2011

Dear Mom & Dad ~

It's hard to believe that ten years have passed since I last saw you, since I last touched your hands or watched the evening news with you or told you I loved you. Ten years ... that's a whole decade! People write songs about decades. They give them names and assign them attributes, like time has a personality and the collective memories of those years in some way defines those of us who lived through those decades. Ten years is a long time, especially when you're talking about time spent in the absence of someone -- or two someones -- whom you hold very dear.

And yet in so many ways, it seems like only yesterday. I wasn't ready to let go of you then, and now, ten years later, I find I still haven't really let go. Oh, the tears come less frequently than they did when the pain was still fresh. I don't reach for the phone to dial your number and share my news quite as often as I used to, when the reality was momentarily forgotten. I no longer hold objects that once belonged to you and cling to them as if they are the last tangible proof that you existed.

I am tangible proof that you existed.

In the last ten years, the world has changed drastically. I often wonder how you would react to the world today, if you would be overwhelmed by technology and the speed of change. 160 cable channels, debit cards, cell phones and Facebook -- I can't begin to imagine. You saw enough war and enough hatred to last a lifetime, and still it continues. Your town has changed; the business you devoted 30+ years to no longer exists. Old friends are gone, the neighbors are no longer familiar. Even your final resting place is being encroached upon by a growing college campus and noise pollution from the traffic on an increasingly busy highway.

In the last ten years, your grandchildren grew up. They drive cars, they have jobs, they date, they go to college, they got married, they have beautiful children of their own. They are doctors and engineers, they hold MBAs and PhDs, they want to publish books and teach history and build airplanes. They hunt, they fish, they play musical instruments, they act. Yes, it is undoubtedly genetic. And you'd be proud of all of them, I'm certain.

In the last ten years, I've gotten older and (I'd like to think) a little bit wiser. My hair is starting to whiten here and there, I've lost a few inches in height, my eyesight isn't what it used to be, and I've found myself uttering phrases that I swore I would never use just because you used them all those years ago. I look at old photos of aged family members from days gone by and I see myself, and you, in their faces. Sadly, in these ten years I've not become wealthy, independently or otherwise, and I'm not really even successful, at least not by conventional definition. But I'm content and that's good enough for now.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I still sing.

In closing, if I had one wish it would be that I could hug you both one more time and tell you again how much I love you. I may have spent the last ten years without you in my life, but you will always -- always -- be in my heart.

John Felmy Shaffer
October 1, 1922 - September 24, 2001

Helen Mae Royer Shaffer
May 22, 1922 - October 3, 2001


  1. Beautiful tribute. Your parents would be proud of you.

  2. A beautifully written, heartfelt tribute. It’s so sad that they went so close together too, though that may have been how they wanted it. You are absolutely right about the tangible proof of existence. I believe we are kept alive through our offspring, their memories, and those of others, and of course through such memorable pieces as this.

  3. Thank you, jabblog. That means a lot to me.

    Little Nell - Thank you for your kind words. As you said, their passing was close together, but my mother had always said she hoped they would go together. And even though they were in separate rooms and hadn't seen each other for many days, I think she somehow knew.