Today, September 7, 2020, Labor Day, I finally counted dad’s letters which I had estimated to be over 100 letters, sent in the late 60s and early seventies, while I was a nursing student, then graduating with a BSN and MRS. within days of each another. I was surprised to count 170 to Di, then 65 to Chuck and me.
I am crying as I read one letter addressed: Dear Di, Chuck and Pooh (1972). I had read it on May 17, 1997, as well as all the others, while in California attending the Primal Center for a year, attending individual and group therapy weekly, hoping to be certified as a Primal Therapist, already practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist for ten years. As if digging for the oil of love: real, true, pure.
Tears write again and again, sometimes sobbing, validating how much I miss my dad’s special love (for me), he who wrote his name on my birth certificate although I am not his biologically. I felt ‘equally’ loved to his two biological children born after me, Constance, and Eric.
WHY is it that we could not say I love you into each other’s eyes, only in letters? Or in a card on Valentine’s Day. It is remarkable that a male would be the more nurturing parent during the 1950s and 60s, as seen in the following examples reflected in his amazing creative writing, while being an astronomer. Sadness rises up my chest like a fluffy pure white cloud when I think of how extraordinary my dad is/was.
It is very difficult to choose what letters to include without writing a book. These are selections from letters usually 2-4 pages long, arriving usually weekly. (Note: that if I add my thoughts within dad’s letters, they will be italicized.)
January 17, 1967: After a long detailed description: “So it goes all day long and at times, when a day was particularly rough, or people particularly dissatisfied, having to cook our supper and do the dishes seems to be the last straw,”…”well, how are you?” (tears) Hope so much that you are well, and all is well with you. Bet I’ve picked up the phone half a dozen times to call you and it has been very difficult not to actually do it and have a little patience. A father’s concern for the well-being of his children is however as natural as breathing…however, a postcard with the simple word “well” would do a lot to set my mind and heart at ease.” I’m crying 8/25/2020, thinking such a small request from a huge heart of love, glad he could ask. This letter ends with: “Take real good care of yourself and don’t forget to eat and sleep. :)” Re-reading these letters helps me appreciate his love more and more deeply…noticing, pausing, to see he writes ‘real’ good care of yourself. He ends with: “Best of luck with your finals. Know that there is at least one guy in Ithaca, who is pulling (tears) mighty hard for you. WHY? (my internal question too) Because he loves you. Your dad”
January 5, 1967: “Our sensitivity to the hurts and needs of others – our ability to help, are so much dependent upon the hurts we ourselves have experienced, and the reliance upon Him we have developed” – both as born again Christians back then. I gave up religion in 1984. “Know however (his little sermon as he would call it), that it comes from a heart full of love for you. Your dad.”
February 14, 1967: A Valentine card reading: For you daughter, a loving Valentine because you have a charming way of growing dearer every day. He adds: “and lovelier too.” Signed: “I love you very very much” (tears)
May 19, 1969: “Even though you must be in orbit (or at least on cloud nine) yourself about now, you probably have not paid too much attention to our latest space venture. For the next one, Apollo 11 that is to make a landing on the moon, we’ve developed a special camera here at the center (Cornell Space Sciences), that one of the crew will use to take real close up pictures of things on the lunar surface with. It has a long handle with a trigger on it that will permit them to snap pictures only inches from the surface or objects without bending down. Was involved in constructing a model of it, that Apollo 11 crew are going to use during their training period prior to their flight in Houston. It is a to scale model, except that its weight is 1/6th of the actual one, to compensate for the difference in the gravity. We are also among those, that will receive a sample of the lunar surface material that they hope to bring back. All of this is very exciting and I am glad enough to be involved in this, if only in a very small way.
Time for the Salties. Have a real good day, Di and I do hope, that everything will fall into place most nicely for you. By the way, Dr. Hull read your wedding invitation from the pulpit yesterday. Love you, Di (tears) Your old Dad.”
July 9, 1969: “Dear Di and Chuck, Your lovely card arrived on Saturday and for it and all it contained, many many thanks. At times, I have been accused of being prejudiced, but it seems to me that I will have to go a ways to catch up with you, Di.” (I cried reading this 11/26/96) … “On Saturday, Connie, Heather and I went to Valois to pick cherries (my favorite summer fruit). We came back with quite a bunch of them and they are (were) as nice as ever I did see. Large and sweet and near perfect. As usual, I climbed to the very top of a tree, where the nicest ones are. Took some to Grammy who seemed to be happy with them and gave a few to the Fosters and Mr. Rudolph.” I love the detail dad gives me and his exponential generosity which fills me with sadness now because I miss his essence of love so much! The time he took to write, to share: “Tomorrow, I am invited for supper to the deWolfs. The reason for the invites is, that they want me to have an unobtrusive opportunity to talk with some gal, who seems to have an emotional problem as well as a spiritual one. Just why George feels that I could be of some help to her, I am not sure.” At his job at Cornell Space Sciences he was known as the counselor, and he did volunteer on the phones at Suicide and Crisis service in the 70s. One of the first males. Now in my seventies, each year I grow more appreciative of this truly special man, my daddy. “Having left a very good paying job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard after the war and come to Cornell to work for ‘peanuts’ I can appreciate what it is like to get down to the last coppers. Still, having to make do has its compensations, i.e. the greater concern for and reliance upon the help to each other, a greater appreciation for that which you do have and the freedom from material obligations to other to mention a few. True, it is not easy at times, but a rather good school, if you are a willing student. Sure glad though you found those 35 clams! Have a suggestion – as far as possible, never schedule a payment for the first of the month. (uh oh, my credit card payment is due the first😊) The 5th of the month, say, is a much better time. Checks are a day or two late sometimes or for some reason you may not be able to pay on the first. If a payment is due on the 5th and you usually pay on the 1st or 2nd anyhow, it helps your credit standing and gives you some leaveway.” We generally spoke on the phone once a week, so to take so much time to explain in his letters underlines his love for me. “Better get going now. Will write again and soon, when I have a little leisure time. Be good. Miss you guys. Love, Dad C.”
May 9, 1972: I cried in reading it 5/7/97 and 8/13/2020 once again missing dad’s love, the way he shows it here once again! “Dear Di, Chuck and Pooh (first grandchild Erin), Just a quick note to say Hi and to thank you again for your presence last Thursday, for contributing so great a share to my happiness of not only that day, but every day that you are all in my consciousness. When I consider all aspects of my life, each thing that goes into the total experience of it, I consider the experience that you create in it, that is so very great and fine and that I so enjoy dwelling upon.
There is the tie, Di. (this was not meant to be ‘punny’). Having been all my life somewhat of a conservative (starting with my upbringing) it takes just a little bit of courage to wear a tie as colorful as the one you gave me. I did however wear it to church last Sunday and never have I heard such compliments on anything else I have ever worn. Ada Miller perhaps put it best when she said that she would start this week to make some ties for Henry. I was of course proud to talk of the origin of this one and that too was very nice for me. That especially so, since it showed such careful and expert craftsmanship, which I so much appreciate and enjoy.
Hope so much that you are all well and that you had a good and safe trip to your reunion. As soon as Eric (my brother) is done with school, we surely will be down for a day. An architectural problem that he and another person did was cited as the best of the class. A heart full of love to you all, your Dad C.” I am sitting with my hands on my cheeks wondering how to describe my dad’s extraordinary person. Even though he was afraid to come to me at age 16, to share feelings about me just learning I was not his biologically by my mother shouting at me in anger: “He’s not your father!” during a fight where I was defending him. This was never resolved between us as he died of a sudden heart attack at age 60…still these letters show his feelings of love so transparently (just thought how the word parent is within). I can never be greatFULL enough!
Amazingly, he also wrote frequent letters to his little sister, Resi, living in the town they were born in: Dreis, Germany. I had some translated from German into English, here is one paragraph written 9/26/73: “A long time ago you talked in one of your letters about walking over a mountain when it is cold and the wind is blowing and that you would love to put your hand into the warm pocket of my jacket. I think about this and would give something to make this wish come true. Do you understand what I am trying to say and wish for you? I hope so and I also hope that just this thought can make you a little bit happy (tears) I still have to say another thing: I love my little sister very much and with all my heart.” (crying 9/3/1997 and sobbing 8/13/2020)
May 5, 1970: “Dear Di and Chuck: (paragraph from second page of four page letter) You mentioned, Di, how much you’d like to do ‘creative’ things. How well I can understand that. For some time now, my own life has been devoid of any such thing, having to devote what little energy is left after work to menial tasks of ‘housekeeping.’ This will have to change, lest I shrivel up entirely. As soon as I can, I will buy me a recorder (as a start) and learn to play it. When Eric goes to college in the fall, I will have more time. Hope also to do some serious reading then and attend the concerts here on a more regular basis, as well as more of the lectures. Finally, I shall (or hope to) have a more active social life.” I share this to illustrate his thoughtfulness about what a good life is and how connected he is to my feelings to be more creative. Tears stream as I read his closing gratitude, “Thank you again for all you are and all you give me. Hope that you have (or will) enjoy The Letterman. Much love and prayers, Your Dad C.”
My most precious card from dad was sent November 1, 1965, while I attended the christian college my mother wanted me to go to, (only for one year thank god😊 while my dad wanted me to stay at Cornell where I was on probation due to failing calculus. And a 65 in English. Yet dad was the one who came to visit me there and afterwards wrote a card that lists 12 things he wants me to know and now tears fall as the paper’s brittleness has the binding falling apart… breaking my heart while fastening our bond tighter as number 12 says “that I love you.” And number 9: (number of transformation-spiritual enlightenment/universal love in numerology) “That you make comments and ask questions in ‘Bible’ (class) and are not afraid to think and ask and how happy I am about that.” Makes me happy too! As does my present home address at 999 Coddington Road for four years😊 All I can think, and enthusiastically say out loud is “I love you the bestest of all the men in my life, even after four marriages that have helped me evolve into a better beloved. And I am truly more and more greatFULL!
Dianea Colbert, Griffeth, Thompson, Colbert-Mauboussin, Kohl-Riise, KOHL, my dad’s true name, which he changed to Colbert when becoming an American.