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My oldest is going to school at Keene State College in Keene, NH next Wednesday. After we drop her off, I plan on leaving a letter for her just before we drive off. I just finished it - hope you like it. It's a bit long, but there's loads of tid-bits there for her. No tears allowed as you read it, either!

Dearest Deena-
I am starting to write this to you on the occasion of your leaving for school – I intend on doing this as a summer project, and I will not show it to your mom. Some of this will be organized, and some of it will be stream-of-consciousness. The intent is to leave you with (perhaps?) a lasting impression of your father – some of which you will know, some of it you can guess at (as you get older, perhaps?), and some of which you will only know and understand from this letter. Just as a frame of reference, you have just finished highschool, and today is the 5th of July; I am flat on my back, having pulled a muscle while trying to make the front of the house and the yard a little nicer looking. It pains me greatly that I cannot finish what I have started on this job… and that’s the first thing I want to impress upon you. I absolutely HATE not being able to finish something at least to my own personal satisfaction. My own personal satisfaction, as it were, varies; some things are worth seeing through to the bitter end, and some can be mostly finished and left to be cleaned up later, but that varies, depending on the job. The front yard makes an impression on people who visit, so I like to make it at least as nice as I can, but now I can’t even get out of bed!

I want to make sure you understand how I feel about you in each and every way possible that a parent can. I love and adore you and all your foibles, goods and bads, talents and non-talents, obsessions and compulsions, trials and failures - always. Yes, there are times when I wish I didn’t have to deal with you as you were growing up, simply because it would have made my job easier – but then we come back to, “Do I finish this job? Or is a little bit of effort good enough?” My effort in trying to raise you to the person you are today was at times cold and calculating; at other times, warm and caring; however, at all times, it was, “What do I have to do to raise her with her own best interests in mind? What is the best action I must take to make her into the best person she can be?” I know there were times when I was maddeningly aloof, hard to see eye-to-eye with, and a total prick. I did what I had to do, hon. Parents do these things that never seem right at the time to their children. Sometimes, we as parents also question what we do – recall, I once asked you, “How many 16 year old daughters do you think I’ve raised?” You were the first 16 year old, as well as 10 year old, and 2 year old… Like it or not, my “job” is finished, for the most part. I have no further say in the day-to-day way you run your life – only you do.

Raising kids is no easy task, and certainly not for the faint of heart. You can never give up. You can occasionally, as a parent, be a friend to your children, but you must always be a parent. There were times doing your childhood when it would have been so much easier to be your buddy and not a parent – but in doing so, I wouldn’t have given you that which you truly deserved and needed. During those times, I could not give in on some things, regardless how much you begged, pleaded, or wheedled, no matter how angry you got with me. I know full well how much of the brunt of your anger I received. I am pleased at how well we’ve done with you, all things considered. There have been times when I wish both you and I had done things differently than we have, but that is water under the bridge at this juncture and not worth revisiting for me, since I can not change it – maybe it will for you when and if you decide to become a parent…?

One of the best things that ever happened in my life was joining the Navy. I know the only memory of that for you is seeing a picture or three of your dad on walls and in photo albums. Not only did it get me away from a bad situation in my family life in central Ohio, it made me grow up. I think (now) that I was pretty immature as a senior graduating from highschool. It also made me consider just what the realm of possibilities could be for my future – no, not immediately, because I had to grow up a bit first. That took some time, but I finally figured it out. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, some of which almost killed me – and yes, I am serious. There was a time with a motorcycle that I borrowed from a friend – too much throttle in a turn can quickly be a bad thing if there is a big curb on the outside of the curve, and I almost hit it. Drinking too much can also have the same effect:– been there, done that, burned down the t-shirt factory. Not knowing when to let a friendship go can be as bad as well; sometimes the best light is from a burning bridge, and you’ll have to learn when bridges have to be burned and when they simply need mending. Sometimes, arguing with people also has a decision point, but you'll figure that out as well.
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