Father’s Day Letters: Gone, But Never Forgotten
Our JET editorial team has spent the week leading up to Father’s Day reflecting on our fathers.
I regret to say that my father will not be able to physically read my letter, as he passed away due to a heart problem when I was a freshman in college, but I’ll write one anyway because not a day goes by that I do not reflect on one of the best parents the world has known. Not only was W. Louis Kyles wonderful to both me and my also amazing sister, Kozi, he treated neighborhood kids, schoolmates and the children of family friends like his very own. He was “the” dad to have on field trips, scouting excursions and at backyard parties. He helped decode math problems, build science class dioramas and shoo away what he called “knuckle head boys.” That last thing is a life skill. For this and so many other reasons, I dedicate this to one half of my awesome parental unit.
How I wish we could cook you dinner this Father’s Day! In thanks for the cooking lessons you taught us (from seafood gumbo to the aptly named “perfect duck”), we’d have laid you out an enviable spread. Kozi might have tried to razzle dazzle you with a delicious mussels, diced tomato and pasta dish she has perfected over the years. I would likely break out the lobsters with lemon butter dusted with smoked paprika.
And that would just be for starters.
Even your beautiful wife, Toni, would have been just a little bit jealous of our burn skills because, as we still joke, she uses her gourmet-level kitchen strictly for looking, not for cooking. But she’d probably contribute her critically acclaimed sweet potato pie for dessert.
At any rate, we would have pulled out all the culinary steps to fete an awesome dad, who kept on us about our schoolwork, took us on extravagant trips and introduced us to fine dining. You taught us the importance of being disciplined and ambitious, and at the same time kept us all smiling and laughing with a dry sense of humor to rival Dave Chappelle. Of the many things I miss about you is that sly grin that we knew meant we were to be the recipient of, or audience to, one of your classic roasting sessions. Since you were super kind, these mini-stand-up hours were always in good fun and always hilarious. I still remember when you tried to “hook me up” with a boy in high school that you knew dang well I couldn’t stand, yet you still rolled down the window and joyfully offered to let him walk me to class despite a withering gaze I was leveling at you during the entire exchange. (That guy might still think I had a crush on him.)
I also remember how you teased Kozi about being the “golden one” (pictured below in all her chubby glory) due to her inability to get out of bed and to the breakfast table on time with the rest of us mere mortals. You’d be happy to learn that she got over her pre- and grade-school laziness and is now on time everywhere she goes.
I think back to how you used to faithfully bring mom the TV guide so she could keep up with her soaps, and wonder if you would have marveled at the technology–including Google cards– that have since taken over your job. You might also be surprised that many of her favorite “stories” are gone off the air, including your fictional rival for her affections, the dashing, mumbling Victor Newman of “Young and the Restless.”
I know you’d be delighted to see both of your daughters following the dreams we used to share with you, from Kozi– our resident performer and director– now with an award-winning Web series under her belt and leveraging the skills she used to fake sick to act.
When you passed away she was still in high school, but I had just enrolled at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism, and I’m proud that your hard-earned investment into my education paid off. You watched me, from the time I was a tiny girl, addressing “my viewers” through an imaginary mirror broadcast. I then grew up to lay beside you on the floor reading the daily newspapers and occasionally attempting to hog the funnies. You knew I loved to write and you encouraged it by reading my scrawlings and typed up “manuscripts” as if they were the latest from Toni Morrison. I like to believe that you know you kept me inspired and that you can see that everything you instilled in me and Kozi about hard work, dedication and focus is fully intact. You warned us not to be waylaid or sidetracked by the lovelorn young men that used to court us as you watched from the sidelines. No need to drop a George W. Bush-style banner, but “Mission Accomplished.” 🙂
While I’m sad that you will not be there to give me away at the altar, see your future grandchildren (at some point) or even eat another holiday meal lovingly prepared with you in mind, I am happy that you are free from illness. I am grateful you are not suffering and that you spent your life golfing, fine dining, traveling, reading and making the world a better place with your enormous heart. I am blessed to have had an awesome father, even if I couldn’t have you here as long as we all would have liked.
This Sunday, we will lay flowers on your grave, share funny stories about you, and gaze with yearning at that picture of you holding my sister and me under the telling banner of “Daddy’s Girls.” We might try to cook one of your favorite dishes or, as we did one year, drive by one of the businesses you once worked so hard to buy and operate.
We will do a lot of things to celebrate your legacy, and pray you can witness it from wherever you are. The one thing we will NOT do is forget you. I will love you forever, dad.
Happy Father’s Day!
Love Your Oldest Daughter,