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For my father, Albert John Van der Leun

Men like my father cannot die. They are with us still-real in memory as they were real in flesh-loving and beloved forever.

Can I believe my friends all gone, when their voices are still a glory in my ears? No, and I will stand to say no, and no again. In blood I will say no. For they remain a living truth within my mind.

Is my mother gone, she who knew the meaning of my family, and taught us all to know it with her?

My brothers, with their courage and their strength, who made me proud to be a man among them?

Is Bronwen gone, who proved to me that the love and strength of woman is greater than the fists and muscles and shoutings of men?

Did my father die under the coal? But, God in heaven, he is with me now, in the heat of his pride in my penmanship–in his quick understanding of my troubles-in the wisdom of the advice which I never found to be wrong or worthless.

Is he dead? For if he is, then I am dead, and we are dead, and all of sense a mockery.

As a boy and as teenager and as college student, How Green Was My Valley was a favorite movie for my mother and me to watch whenever it rotated into view on our ancient 3 station television in the furniture case. It was always, as my father would say, “A real tear-jerker.” He had no patience for it just as he had no patience for his philandering father and would not watch it. It didn’t matter. My mother loved it, especially after her own father died in 1953. I always joined her. And we always cried at the ending. And then college was over and I went off to wherever I thought I was going at the time.

We tried to watch How Green Was My Valley once more than thirty years after my own father died on the table after his third open-heart operation in 1972. Tried. But it was no go. She couldn’t take the emotional blow of the ending. Neither could I. I still can’t. And it gets harder as the years evaporate and the losses accumulate. Still…

Still…

How green was my Valley, then, and the Valley of them that have gone.

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  • Richard June 20, 2021, 9:49 AM

    My father was a civil engineer who also had the soul of a poet. One of my older siblings presented me with copies of correspondences to his sister and poetry he had written. Funny, as son I only ever considered him through the lens of the parent/child relationship. What a profound revelation it was, reading the thoughts of this young man who had his entire life before him. A true gift.

  • gwbnyc June 20, 2021, 12:24 PM

    -can’t watch it, nor “I Remember Mama”.

    Thirty-eight years ago, emerging from dire straits myself, I helped a friend, he having drank and drugged himself near to death, load out some of his belongings as his father had driven to NYC to get him home. We were both thirty years old. The classic “you’re a weak-ass puking drunk and for the millionth time NYC is done with another loser and is spitting you to the curb.” As we moved some boxes around, the room fell more uncomfortably silent, then deteriorated into a physical sense of failure, humiliation, knowing degradation. Another moment passed and my friend’s father spoke, saying, “that landlord’s got some nerve charging what he does for this place.” His statement, made because somebody had to say something, granted some relief and we continued packing.

    I immediately thought, “that man is a hundred percent on his son’s side.”

    Then, plainly, “I wonder what that’s like.”

    We’ve stayed in touch all along. He found his way above ground eight years after I did. A few years ago he wrote and said his father had passed away. I returned condolences, those being the recollection above.

  • Mike Seyle June 20, 2021, 1:01 PM

    I’m 73. When I was 14, fixing up the duck blind for the coming season with dad and his friend, dad handed me the hammer and told me to drive a nail into a bracing 2×4 about two inches below the water. Water deflects sight, and I couldn’t do it. Dad took the hammer and drove the nail in with three swings. Fifty-nine years later, I’m still three swings short of dad, though he’s a step or two ahead of me in the grave. He was quite a man.

  • Dirk June 21, 2021, 7:33 AM

    Awesome, my father was a lot of things, millionaire, drunk, womanizer, a big wheel, until he wasn’t. None of that appealed to me, didn’t approve, yet he was always my dad. I’ll take the good with the bad, it’s just how life is.

    He died broke, I paid for his final internment, when his girl called to tell me he was gone, in the same breath said they didn’t have the money for final issues, I laughed with glee, lived large until the end, my dad got me in the end for 2k. I’m still amused! Good one pop!

    Dirk

  • Steve in Greensboro June 22, 2021, 2:06 PM

    My father will live forever as well. Born in 1919, he has been gone since 1999 and has only four surviving grandchildren, but all have been taught about his greatness. It’s important to give kids their history so they know their noble lineage and they know to be proud of themselves therefore.