Letter To Dad – Weeks Before His Death

November 3, 1987

Dear Dad,

I wanted to say some things to you, but I’m not very good at talking about things, so I thought I would write a letter. Well, I don’t have a very good handwriting, so I thought I would type it. So excuse this rather impersonal-looking letter.

I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes you such a good father. You’ve spent a lot of money and don’t have much now. You’re a very moody man who gets his feelings hurt a lot. And you’ve got to admit that you don’t even have a very good education.

You know, when I think about the money you’ve been through, it’s not such a bad fault after all, because you have always spent it on others. Whenever I think of home, I always think of plenty of food and plenty to drink. You always gave with your heart and your wallet. And you really know how to entertain and make people feel welcome. I can remember so many great parties.

You’ve also spent a lot of money on me and my education. You may not have saved much for yourself, but you saw to it that your children had what they needed. I grew up thinking we were rich. So your fault of going through money might have really been you weakness for doing for others.

But you are a moody person and you do have your feelings hurt a lot. Being a musician, I know some people call that sensitivity. A true artist looks at things a little differently. We are more intune to feelings and less to facts. Events strike us differently and we respond with more insight. That’s why a composer can write music, and author can write books, an artist can paint pictures. But this leaves the artist (I mean artist in the sense of art in general) open to pain from those who don’t understand his way of looking at life. Could it be that your sensitivity is that of an artist? You have got to admit that at least three of your sons are inclined towards the arts. So maybe this moodiness really helped develop an artistic insight in you children that we were fortunate enough to inherit. So again you have a fault that’s not such a bad trait to have. You may have a sensitivity that gives you a lot of pain, but it’s a human quality that only a few possess.

But what about you education. Your vocabulary is limited, you are unfamiliar with many things, and you didn’t go very far in school.

Well, one thing that I have learned in my extensive education is that you don’t learn everything in schools and colleges. It’s one thing to have an education, and it’s another thing to be an educated man. You are an educated man. I say that not only because you instilled a search for knowledge in your sons that produced four with high school diplomas or better, but I say that because you saw the importance of a schooling that you couldn’t get. That’s the sign of an intelligent man. (I used to marvel at the way you could get around in math and I can still remember being impressed when you would help me with my homework.) No, you may not say things correctly all the time and you may get some facts backwards, but you certainly have something many “educated” men lack and that’s wisdom.

Another thing unique about you is a marriage that has lasted a lifetime. I know there have been problems, but you and Mother have shown a stability and devotion that is very, very rare today. Richer and more famous men than you have not been able to share their life with only one person for the many years you and Mother have been together. That’s the type of solidity that’s almost nonexistent today.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I wouldn’t change a thing about you. You are without doubt, the greatest person I know. You have a love, a sensitivity, a wisdom and a stability that I will never achieve. And I hope that someday when I look back over my life – at the friends that I have made, and the people that I have touched – that I can approach just a little of what you have done in your lifetime. I pray that I can instill the values in my children that you have instilled in us. And I hope that I will be loved like you are loved and remembered like you will be remembered. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being my dad.

With love forever,


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