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Letters from my dad

My dad used to make homemade noodles. He was from southern Illinois, from a long line of noodle-makers. The express purpose of making noodles was to serve them with a chicken, and not any kind of chicken. It had to be a stewing chicken—not roasting, not frying. He sent me his chicken-noodle instructions, and that’s what I was looking for when I came across some letters he wrote to me in 1983, the year I lived in Hawaii.

My dad died nine years later, in 1992. Twenty years is a long time to be without your dad, however old you are. These letters make me feel like I have a little bit of him back.

Dear Linda,
Not everyone gets a letter from me on my special Arizona stationary — but then, few people get any kind of letter from me. Sounds like you are having a great time, like in never-never land. And quit worrying about dumb things like money — it’s only necessary for food, lodging, and other mundane things….

Dear Linda,
Well, I hope you are carefree and having great fun while I’m going through all my misery! I need your support, understanding, etc. because I just had five (5) root canal surgeries and am scheduled for several more. Once this is over, and if Mom doesn’t shape up, I’m going to find me a young forty-year-old and go out on the town and honkey tonk!
…. As the time was grinding by in the dentist chair today (yes, back to that. Also excuse the pun), I looked up at my dentist and said to myself, “Self, fifteen years ago I would not have permitted a man with a beard to be my dentist.” Then I thought to myself that a woman dentist would be quite acceptable. In fact, almost anyone would be okay except a bearded woman….

4/15/83 (tax deadline—made it)
Congrats! You are the very first person to receive a note from me on my new Gimble Quail note pad. Now the Gimble Quail is about the size of a Robin and very colorful. They scoot around all over the Sonoran Desert….
….Thanks for the photo. However, I think that it’s illegal to bring a “swim suit” like that back to the Mainland. I will make some noodles one of these days. I have not made any all winter (no requests) and my favorite Noodle Separator is thousands of miles away. But I have been building up a taste for them myself. What is the stewing chicken (not roasting, not frying) situation on The Islands? No point in sending noodles unless you can buy the right kind of chicken.
It sounds like you are really getting a lot out of your experiences. I know what you mean by “miraculous things.” People tend to live their lives around narrow and specific goals, which limit their visions and experiences. It is only when we experiment and depart from our narrow paths that we can see what is out there—the deer, the whales, the mountains, the desert, the snails, great people who do not happen to speak English, thunderbolts and gentle fog. And if we are lucky, a Gimble Quail. I don’t believe that I would like to be near an active volcano, but I don’t resent volcanos. They have their place too. For example, where would Hawaii be without them?

Natural type things are of more interest to me than anything else — natural type people, landscapes, and animals. One time Grandpa Swanson and I were hunting antelope in Montana. I managed to trap a big, beautiful buck in a box canyon. We gazed at each other for a long time, as though he knew he was a dead duck. Then he tried to escape by running the only way he could — right past me. I stepped back, put down my rifle, and watched that beautiful animal run past and charge across the plains. That was the best hunt I ever had. The rancher thought I was tetched, but Grandpa understood. He did not even comment. He understood.

I do not mean to be too drippy sentimental, but I am really pleased to know that you are seeing the miraculous things which are there if we depart, even temporarily, from our narrow path…."

My dad and I had a feisty relationship. We both liked to laugh more than anything else. To others, it probably came across as animosity rather than camaraderie. After he died, I was beyond sad. I kept thinking, he’s the only man who would never leave me, no matter how outrageous I am. I believe every girl child should know that feeling, even if it’s not exactly true.
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