Dear Dad ….. Giving a Thank You Letter as a Christmas Present to an Elderly Parent

In 2003, when my father was 84 and in good health,  I decided to give him the gift of  a ‘thank you’  letter for Christmas.  Interestingly, I can’t remember if I gave him anything else to supplement it but I know for sure that the letter meant the world to him then and means a huge amount to me now.

It was a five page letter, written by hand with a fountain pen, and started like this:

Dear Dad,

This may seem like an odd Christmas present but I want to remind you of all the really ‘fatherly’ things you have done for me since I was born.

It covered happy times growing up and moved on to his involvement in my education:

Another aspect of life was the academic; your willingness to pay for me all those years in Trinity. The PhD was the outcome for me –   a lot of money spent the outcome for you! Trinity was my first time away from home. I have vivid memories of you delivering and collecting me from Trinity Hall, driving me to the station, meeting buses. The car was always there and so were you with your warm smile.  

There was so much to say and on the last page, I wrote: 

In so many ways, it’s been the little things that have been everything – mopping up the  cuts, catching the mice, just being at the other end of the phone ….. Nights chatting over cups of tea and sugary hot orange drinks …..

Father never, ever mentioned the letter to me after I handed it to him in a yellow folder on Christmas Day in 2003 but my mother told me that he was deeply touched by it.  After he died  almost seven years later, I felt a great sense of happiness that I had taken that opportunity to thank him when he was fit and well.

I was rather surprised when I was clearing out his house that there was no sign of the letter. I doubted very much that he would have thrown it out  as he always kept things that mattered to him. Then on the day I was handing over the key, I decided to have one last look and there in a special hidey hole, I found the familiar yellow folder. It was well thumbed and I knew that he must have read the letter on quite a few occasions. It has now become one of my treasures and sources of solace.

So, from my experience, I would say: write that Christmas  ‘thank you’ letter now and don’t wait until it’s too late.

Oh and there was a PS in the letter:

PS: Remember that magic moment when we saw the deer crossing the mountains in the snow ….

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

10 thoughts on “Dear Dad ….. Giving a Thank You Letter as a Christmas Present to an Elderly Parent”

  1. That’s lovely, Jean. I worked with someone once and he told me about a similar kind of letter his son wrote for him. Enclosed with it were tickets to go to Graceland as they were both Elvis fans. I felt moved when he told me about it and moved again to read yours. You must have been close to have enjoyed your late night conversations. Merry Christmas!

    1. Angie, great to hear from you. I’m just thinking how much Dad would have enjoyed seeing Elvis! Yes, we were extremely close which was wonderful and I was very lucky to get to spend so much time with him. He was big into not having regrets so the letter was in many ways a product of that wisdom.

  2. Jean, What a lovely gift! On my father’s birthday last year I wrote him a similar letter telling him how much I loved him and how much I learned from him. He told me it was better than any card I could have given him! This Christmas you have inspired me to write one for each of my children!

  3. Jean. I had a dream the other night and you were a primary school teacher showing a picture of two children arguing to another small child. You asked the child “What do they need”? The child answered “A bridge. Not a real one. A social bridge.”

    1. Phil, you really made me chuckle with this.
      I presume the dream was after I commented on your latest post. If not, it’s beyond extraordinary.
      There are times when I feel that people don’t get the idea of social bridges but you’ve proved to me that they operate at all sorts of levels of consciousness. I wonder what Freud would have to say about all this.
      BTW, regards to Michael and Carla and all at Memory Bridge when you see/talk with them.

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