JANUARY 31, 2011 11:42AM


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My Dad taught me to be quiet.

We'd walk together in the woods near our house and I'd wait for him to say something.  Sometimes he did.

Or it might be the weekend and time for a project.  A stonewall might need to be built so my sisters and I would hunt down the rocks and watch, fascinated, while he mixed the cement.  Or, out came the tools, the hammer and saw, the Yankee screwdriver, the pencil behind the ear, the tape measure.  Watch Dad work.  Watch quietly.

I sat in front of the "Review Board" of other fathers when I was up for a Scout promotion.  A letter from my Dad, a letter about me, sat in the hands of a man I knew well.  He explained that Dad had written of the "usual" things, the pluses and the minuses.  I would give almost anything to have that letter today.

I didn't understand then that what separated my father and me was alcohol.  I thought it was me.  I thought it was something I did or something that I could do better.  Strive, strive, strive.  Strive to please the man who put the tie on every weekday morning and left the house early for work.  Strive to please the man who could build a new bedroom or a vacation trailer.

So, the quiet settled in and when I got older the things we might have spoken about were kept in a room somewhere, safely under lock and key.  Better to talk about the weather and comfortable shoes.  Better to pretend I didn't miss the relationship we didn't  have.

When the doctor announced that it would only be a matter of minutes, I went to the side of the hospital bed and whispered into Dad's ear that I loved him and that he'd been a good father. 

He'd love our two boys.  They're anything but quiet.

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