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A letter to my Dad

November 11, 2010

Dear Dad,

This morning as I was running through the gently falling snow (Yes, I’ve taken up running. Surprised?), I found myself thinking about you, Dad. You see, there’s something I’ve been aching to talk to you about this week, and it’s making me miss you like crazy. There’s a lump forming in my throat as I write this.

Dad, this week I became a teacher. For real.

Oh, it’s not that I haven’t been a teacher before (I’ve lead lots of leadership and creativity workshops before), but in those cases, I usually referred to myself as the “facilitator”, not sure I had acquired the authority to call myself “teacher”.

But this time, I’m a bonafide teacher, Dad. In a university. I’ve been hired to do the job and I have no doubt I have the qualifications or authority to call myself teacher. After being a writer for most of my life, and a communications professional for more than thirteen years, I don’t have any qualms about being the expert in the room when it comes to writing for public relations.

Do you remember, Dad, about nineteen years ago when you made a special phone call to tell me you thought I should be a teacher? I could hardly believe it when I came home and one of my roommates told me you had called. “My DAD?!” I’m sure I exclaimed. “He CALLED? He NEVER calls! This must be important.”

And I guess it was important. Important enough for you to do one of the things you hated most in the world – pick up a phone and make a call. You did it because you knew that, after graduating with an English and Theatre degree, I was contemplating whether an after-degree in Education might be a good way to put my otherwise rather useless degree to work. You wanted me to know you thought it was the right choice. I think it’s probably the only time in my life you offered me career advice. Mostly you were okay with your kids figuring those things out on our own.

I never did go for that after-degree. I applied, but then I missed the appointment for the interview and then never bothered to reschedule. The truth is, I really didn’t have much interest in becoming a teacher in a traditional school setting.

But that phone call kept nagging at me. What was it you’d seen in me that made you think I should be a teacher? I wish I’d had the sense to ask you that question when you were still alive. Honestly, though, I think I was a little afraid that your reason was simply that you wanted to persuade me to persue something more practical than the writing career I dreamed of. I guess I didn’t want to hear that, so I never asked.

Now that I’m older, though, (and a little less resistant to the advice of my elders) I think that perhaps you perceived something in me that I didn’t yet see. Maybe you had a foreshadowing of a calling I didn’t see until later in my life.

The truth is, you were right. I love teaching. When I stand in front of a classroom, I know that I was meant for this.

No, I still don’t want to be a schoolteacher, and I don’t regret that choice I made so many years ago, but now that I have gathered some wisdom worth sharing, I believe that I am called to share it. And that’s what I’m going to do. Find ways to share it – both in my writing and my teaching.

One of the things I’m wondering, dad, is if your phone call had something to do with what you felt was your own missed calling? Perhaps you saw in me what was in you as a young man? Because I’m sure you would have been an amazing teacher dad.

See, there’s something I think you should know, Dad.  It served as such an inspiration to me how, later in life, you found ways of fulfilling that calling you probably thought you’d buried. I still have some of the clippings from pieces you had published, and some of the notes from sermons you preached in your simple, untrained but eloquent way. Thank you for having the courage to do that, even though you probably doubted whether you had the qualifications. Thank you for every envelope you had the courage to address “to the publisher” and place a stamp on. One of those envelopes (complete with an article penned in your unique handwriting) was returned to me after you died by a publisher who knew it would be meaningful to me. It is one of my most cherished possessions.

Thank you for the inspiration, Dad, and thank you for your blessing. Even though it took me nearly twenty years to follow your advice, I did it, and I hope you’re smiling right now.

Say hello to Matthew, will you? And Marcel’s dad. We miss you all. So much.

Your beloved daughter,

Heather

p.s. If you want to read more about losing Dad, or read a poem I wrote about him, check out this post.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 6:27 pm

    OMG – this is so beautiful. i’m in tears and so touched by this. you ARE a teacher and a true gift to the world.

    Thank you for inspiring me today.

    And – congratulations on listening to that inner calling (and your dad) that you ARE a teacher. i only hope that one day i’ll get to have the joy of being a student of yours.

    Even though we’ve never met, I have no doubt that I could learn a lot from you. Beautiful beautiful post – I’m sure your Dad sees this and is overjoyed to see you taking your place amongst the teachers of the world.

  2. November 12, 2010 8:54 am

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that you are a teacher. Even before this job. There is the job of [school] teaching, and the act of teaching, and I think you’ve been doing the act for a long time.

  3. November 12, 2010 9:41 am

    In honour of you and your Dad, a book recommendation…the only one I travel with when I’m “teaching – facilitating – coaching”: Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage To Teach. It’s a compilation of the best poetry submitted by teachers from around the world who have participated in Parker Palmer’s Teacher Formation renewal retreats. His book, The Courage to Teach, is for me the quintessential volume on what it means to teach, from the heart, with the heart, to the heart.

    From my heart to yours,
    Katharine

  4. November 14, 2010 4:02 pm

    Wow, that was lovely and brought a tear to my eye! I’m sure your Dad is so very proud of you. Good for you Heather for listening to his advice and your heart and sticking with it long enough to become who you’re supposed to be! You’re students are very lucky to have you!

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