Photo by Carrie Boretz, his daughter
I wrote this blog post a few years ago for Father’s Day, and thought I would share it with you again.
For all us who have loved and lost our fathers.
I was sitting on a long airplane ride yesterday with tears streaming down my cheeks. Listening to a touching Story Corps podcast episode about fathers triggered profound feelings of loss.
My dad, Alvin Boretz, died 9 years ago and Father’s Day since then has been hard. His birthday was June 15th so the two days are always entwined in my mind. We always laughed that he got a bit cheated with a combined celebration.
I can’t call him to talk through a problem, share a piece of good news, or share the kids’ (and now the grandkids’) latest exploits. The truth is, he was gone in his mind several years before he actually died. But the physical loss was so final.
I do know that I am luckier than many people. Aside from having a father who was my greatest cheerleader, I had a Dad who wrote numerous letters through his life to me and many others. I have saved over 100 of them. He was also a screenwriter and the entirety of his work is archived at The University of Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. I have been there several times to read his many screenplays, notes, and correspondence and it is always a joy.
As I write this post, the letters sit next to me, spilling out of the folders I have placed them in, loosely organized by decade.
Dad’s essence comes through in every one. Many are filled with encouragement, humor, and hope for the future – his and ours. And Dad loved to send me advice, including clippings from the The NY Times. Every time I forward a link to a friend or colleague, I smile and thank Dad for passing on his endless curiosity and desire to help others explore their current interests. He was always on the lookout. I read the NY Times each morning and often reflect on that comforting image of my mom and dad absorbing the news.
Dad’s words helped me to navigate life from my teens through my 20’s and 30’s.Though I left NY at 18 for college and a career, I could always depend on these welcome gifts in my mailbox from St. Louis, to Amherst, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. Other letters remain tough to read as Dad’s sadness and worry seep through the page like dark ink blots. He had a lot of tragedy in his life and his writing was an outlet for the emotions he couldn’t always express in his scripts or voice aloud. His letters didn’t escape this darkness.
After significant life events, both happy and sad, dad often made a point of writing letters. Here are a few excerpts from some of those letters. The beauty of his prose still moves me.
Excerpts from Dad’s letters
On deciding what career I should pursue:
“I have no advice….simply that your own good sense of survival and your judgment will help you to make proper decisions…none of which have to be irrevocable of course. That is important to remember. You are not committing your life…but simply starting out on a course of action which will allow you to make a livelihood and also hopefully to enjoy what you do and contribute. A most rare combination.”
When my spouse ,Bill lost out on a job he wanted very much.
“The world is open to you. All that is required is resistance to all the injustice and madness that afflicts us all. There are few exceptions. Courage, my dear Bill. You can’t miss.”
After a friend’s long time boyfriend broke up with her.
“You are the only one who can handle it and put a stop to your unhappiness. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ is a terrible cliché, but it is also an important truth. You will be busy working, functioning, living, and yes, even loving. Respect my gray hair and believe what I say. You are Kelly and that is someone wonderful.”
When Bill and I were in a serious car accident but weren’t injured:
“Sorry about the accident, but we all need a trauma like that to remind us of our vulnerability. Precisely at our zenith, we often attract the fates and that is good – for an affirmation that it is always a struggle. There is, of course, the inner struggle that all of us face and which surfaces when we least expect it. But at least it gives us a chance to handle our own destiny and to have some of the responsibility for our own lives. “
Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day and Happy Birthday!!!