Neil Tambe

Husband, Father, Citizen, Professional.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

I pray this letter finds you

Papa,

I wanted to write you a letter to thank you for something I never understood until I became a father. I figure that wherever you are now, you'd probably be reading my blog (if there's WiFi). And I don't really have any other options, though I suppose there's prayer, to get a message to you, so I figured I'd try this.

I am also sorry for putting this on a blog, because I know you never really liked discussing personal matters widely. I hope you'll forgive me, though, because I hope Bo and any other kids we have someday are able to stumble upon it, in case I'm able to write something that does justice to how I'm feeling today, and the love that you ladled onto me throughout your life.

When I was growing up, Ma always said - usually when I was being scolded about something - that one day I would understand when I had kids of my own. Although this is something you never said to me, I think you must've felt it, at least to some degree. And she was right.

I did not understand, until I became a father, the extent to which parents can love their children. When Bo was born, my heart didn't just expand, it became infinite. In the weeks after his birth day, my ability and willingness to make sacrifices exceeded beyond what I thought it's theoretical limit was. I suppose what I'm describing is something I suspected would happen, but only intellectually. I didn't expect how it would feel.

Sometimes, I think, God speaks to me through the books I pick up and gives me just what I need at the exact right time. Many of my favorite and most important books - The Namesake and East of Eden, in particular - have found me at a providential time, and have been about fathers and sons. And now Gilead, which has eluded me at the library for months and I picked up at the bookstore yesterday, on a weekend where we were homebound and celebrating our second wedding anniversary and although we aren't formally celebrating it, Bo's half-birthday. A book, once again, has found me right when I needed it.

This morning, on page 52, it all clicked and I couldn't put off writing this letter to you any longer. It is written:

I’d never have believed I’d see a wife of mine doting on a child of mine. It still amazes me every time I think of it. I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.
— Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

And when I read that, all I could think about was you and a thought that has been brewing in my heart and mind since the day you went ahead. How grateful I am for how much you loved me, and cared for me. And how you told me that you did. I just never understood exactly how special and tremendous your love for me was until I could give it to our own child.

And now, thinking about it, and writing this to you I am overwhelmed with it. Even just your love, or Ma's, or Robyn's, or Bo's would have made my life many times over. And I am lucky enough to have all four of you, and then some.

And now, thinking about all this I'm so sad. Because when you went ahead I thought it was going to be the beginning of our golden years together, instead of its twilight. I was finally starting to understand everything you taught me about being a good man, that I didn't notice along the way. And there's so much now I want to talk to you about, but I can't. I've been trying anything I can think of to just talk with you about it and tell you how much I love you back, but I just can't. I'm so sorry, Papa. I just can't figure it out.

I wish we had more time. And since you went ahead so early, I'm so scared now that I will too. Even though I know you would tell me that's nothing to be afraid of and probably nonsense. But it's hard. Now that I finally understand more of what you taught me, I want lots of time. More time than I have. More time than we had.

I know a lot of fathers and sons have much less time than we did. And I know it's in God's hands not ours. I just wish there was more time for us to have talked more about everything I began understanding only after Robyn and I were married and after Bo was born.

I don't know what else to say, Papa, except that you would love Bo. And that I'm going to try my best to pay forward the love you had for me and for Ma. I just wanted to tell you that I'm finally starting to understand just how special that love was, and that I'm so thankful to have had it. If only we had a little more time.

Love,
Neil