Dad didn’t dare let his son see his true feelings. He saw him to the bus. He shook his hand. He clapped his shoulder. He nodded. As William stepped away. Dad called after him.
William turned around. “Dad.”
Dad looked down, kicked at the gravel beneath his feet, and said. “Write, will you? Make an old man happy.”
“Sure, Dad. I’ll write every day.”
Dad turned around, blew his nose, and walked home. There was so much more that he should have said.
William wrote occasionally. The food is good. The sergeants are tough but fair. He’s made some friends. He’s shipping out to the South Pacific somewhere. At last, Dad could take it no more.
He had so much more to tell the boy, so much more to teach him. He had to talk to him. After all, the boy was no longer a boy. He was on his own, making his own way in the world. So naive. So young. So unprepared.
He wrote a dozen letters, each of which landed in the waste basket. He tried to tell him how to treat a lady. He tried to tell him how to handle his money. He tried to tell him about doing a good job. About loyalty to his company. About patriotism. About honor. About discipline. It all came out wrong. It made no sense to tell him things that he should have shown him for seventeen years.
Finally, he wrote,
It’s particularly hard to see you go off to war, but I’m sure it would be no easier if you were just going off to college or taking a job in another town. In my mind, you are still ten years old and learning to ride a bike.
There are a thousand things I should have taught you, and I feel like have not adequately prepared you for the rigors of life. In this life you will face unfathomable things. I cannot be by your side to help you though them, though I am in your heart. I hope you do recall all that I have tried to teach you. I hope you know I love you, and that I am proud of you.
I am sending you a new Bible. Please know this. Everything I ever needed to know to be a good man, I learned in the Bible. I expect you will, too. It is the perfect letter from a Father to His children as they venture out on their own.
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