A Timeless, Still-Relevant Father

I got an early Father's Day gift earlier this month; a letter from my own dad, who I hadn't heard from in 36 years. He had a good excuse for not being in touch, having succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1974. But my sister recently found a copy of the will he put together three dozen years ago (shortly after he had learned that his disease was terminal), and even more remarkably translated his virtually indecipherable handwriting into a word-processed document which others can now read.

At the outset of his last will and testament Dad made a couple specific requests of his wife (and our mother).

Under no circumstances should there be any service or eulogy. I always detested formal ceremonies of any kind while alive, for many reasons, and certainly don't want to cause one. Later on when emotions have cooled, I would support a family gathering with lots of good food and drink, picnic style.

If my body is not needed or acceptable for scientific research, have a cheap cremation done. You are entitled to $200 in burial expenses from the Veterans Administration which I want you to collect. That will be $200 less that those idiots can spend on research and development of better ways to maim and kill people.

Then he addressed his three teenage children:

Legally my modest estate will all be yours, and you can do with it whatever you desire. If you want a red white and blue Cadillac you can easily find a friendly G.M. salesman ready to oblige. Morally however, (except for your own savings which you have made over the years), it is hard earned money held in trust for you and by you.

That which is in trust for you is for your welfare, education and to give you a decent start in life. You will be extremely foolish if you do not use this money and your God-given talents for this purpose. Set yourself high goals and standards; you will be surprised at what can be done if you try, and failure is no disgrace if you do not reach them. Use your money carefully; you're more than welcome to it. It is also there to be shared in case one of you runs into bad luck. This is your duty.

It is also entrusted to you to help others who are not as fortunate. There will be little trouble finding these people if you look. The main problem is that much more is needed than can be supplied, and it isn't an easy decision to make as to who gets what. I would suggest that as you grow older and more mature you look into groups such as A.C.L.U., Common Cause, Ralph Nader, and SANE because in general these organization are radical, they go to the root of the problem, and despite their waste, inefficiency, errors, etc, they do more good than other fine societies who merely treat the symptoms. Hospitals, the Fresh Air Fund, and various minority causes also need help, and you can give it. The Blood Bank doesn't cost anything and someday you or someone you love may need it.

Now there will be times when you will get frightened, lonely, bored or despondent. Life is no picnic and everyone will have problems. When I had worries I sought and found a neat solution which I'll pass on to you.

On a really clear, dark moonless night go outside and look at the stars. When one of them catches your eye, wink at it. If it winks back, note its position carefully so that you can never forget it. This star is now yours. When you have troubles just wink at your star and let him worry about them. After a while you don't even have to go outside; the whole process is automatic. Just thinking that your star is always there and will be for millions of years takes a load off your shoulders. It worked for me; don't ask me how.

I have no complaints. In 50 years I've managed to live more than most people do in 75, so I've had a full life. Goodbye to all.

During his five-decade life my father was, among other things, a World War II veteran, an electrical engineer, an assistant Little League coach, an electrician, a carpenter, a stonemason, a mechanic, a model airplane builder, and a most imaginative practical joker. And now thanks to his daughter and an indulgent newspaper editor in Maine he's a published author, albeit posthumously.

I'm not sure how anyone else is planning on spending Father's Day. But I know that after spending this Sunday with my wife and three of my father's grandchildren, I have a star I need to go wink at.

Andy Young
June 17, 2010

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