August 30, 2014
Dear Papa Jack,
It’s been one month now without you, but when last we were together a year ago, we did great – going to the King’s Inn in Bristol, later that week river-banking with Grace having martinis in the afternoon. I love you Dad. We never say that enough in the Dawkins family, but it’s mostly because we know it’s true. This last year was tough, but like the Hal Newhouser story I told you in one of our last phone calls, he made the Hall of Fame based on his first many years, not his last one. And you do too.
It really is about baseball – hitting fungos. That’s maybe the most lasting – quickly conjured up – memory I have of you: You taking the time to hit me fungos up against the tennis court fence at Laidlaw Playground. It’s vivid right this moment and symbolic for all the time you spent with me being a dad. And those books you brought home for me to read. And playing the clarinet sitting on the floor with your legs outstretched along side the Hi-Fi speaker – truly Hall material.
I always think too about the time your Dad died when I was 14 and I came home to find you quietly crying in the living room chair – which is what I did when I heard the message Cobe left: “Dad just passed” – and your grandsons Lil’ Jack & Nick were nearby. (Lil’ Jack is pretty big now.) They cried too, and gave me big hugs. I’m crying again.
So that’s the circle of life. We carry on – and I’m so lucky to have known you so well for so long. You got me going on lots of good stuff Jack, playing ball, and politics too; right up to the moment with me running for AG raising the right issues but not getting much coverage standing for ideals as a third party candidate. Maybe we won’t win, but we’re doing our best. Thanks for shaping me. You deserve a lot of credit. There’s more than just me and you who think I’d be a great Attorney General.
Most of all, what a blessing to have you die with me knowing you were proud of me, you resting in peace with confirmation you raised me right – because I know that being thought of as a good dad by your kids is the greatest, most important, feeling in the world. Thanks Jack. Love you forever.
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P.S. Since I’m writing stories (like you did), I’m going to tell about the last thing you did. And you should know that when Grace & I talk, she wishes there was a telephone to heaven.
This love story starts with Grace, my mom, not allowing a TV in the house, ever. The Dawkins kids never watched TV except at a friend’s. We were outside playing and being creative. The no TV rule continued even after we all left the roost. Also, when the fridge conked out and there were no more kids at home, there was no replacing it. For the last 30 years mom and dad survived with no fridge, on top of no TV.
Grace & Jack lived at home into their 90s, but Jack was starting to gripe about too many stairs, not enough prepared meals, the house was too cold, and maybe it was time to move into an independent living place for seniors. But Grace would have none of it. She loved her garden and had no plans to move. I thought maybe buying Jack a space heater, a small fridge and a TV would be a good compromise. So for his 90th birthday, over my mother’s protestations, he and I went and bought the space heater and fridge, and although he was skeptical it would work, he agreed to not back down when I announced to Grace that we were now off to buy a small TV. To which Grace said, “You get a TV – you know what else you get? You get a divorce!” So there was no TV.
A year later I was back out east helping my dad move into Friends Village, a senior living place. His health was starting to go. This would be the summer of 2013. Grace was going to remain living at home, but Jack’s new place was only 5 minutes away and he was still driving so they would see each other every day. He picked a large enough place so Grace might someday join him, one with a back deck and a beautiful garden. But his health kept deteriorating and he was no longer driving to Grace’s every day and died July 30, 2014. My brother Cobe met me at the airport and we drove to dad’s place to move his stuff out before the first of the month. When we walked in, the first thing we saw, lying on a chair facing toward the door, was a letter he had written Grace a few days earlier for her birthday. It was a beautiful love letter. The last thing he did. A love letter.