My Father's Last Words

by Terry 8 Replies latest jw friends

  • Terry

    Father's LAST WORDS


    In 1972, I was 25 years old following a strong impulse carrying me 1,500 miles.

    I intended to find him - my Dad. He’d left when I was about half a year old.

    His home in Detroit, Michigan had been the first house I lived in at age zero.

    I knocked on his door and he answered.

    The door opened and --there he was -- this man --He was my father.


    “Are you Wesley Walstrom?”


    “I’m Terry Walstrom.”

    “Oh? (He offered a stunned chuckle) You have the Walstrom chin—come on in.”


    Later - after all the small talk ...


    I finally had reached the moment when a flesh-and-blood Dad stood in the same room with me and I could inquire about the secrets of the universe.

    “Why did you leave me?”

    “Your mother wanted to fight. I hated fighting. I didn’t have the heart for fighting. So, I left.”

    “I wasn’t worth fighting for?”

    The expression on his face was a crucified Jesus.

    “Terry-what can I say? The line between possible and impossible we each see differently. It was impossible for me to stay with your mother living with her parents, walking to work for forty cents an hour. Then fight and get up the next day. Impossible.”

    “What did you say to me before you went away? My grandfather told me you whispered something.”

    He looked me in the eye.

    “Such as we are made of, such we be.
    We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
    To do a great right, do a little wrong.”




    The last letter I received—no, let me start again!

    The only letter I ever received from my father, Wesley Walstrom, arrived in my mailbox over twenty years later.

    It was addressed to me in shaky handwriting as might come from a person too ill to write.

    I gazed with surprise at the return address. It was my father’s name and the same address where I had stood in 1972 listening to my Dad quoting Shakespeare.

    My wife asked aloud, “Aren’t you going to open it?”

    I took a deep breath. “No.”

    I placed it on the mantle.

    My father died within a year.

    My Aunt Shirley called me and told me. He had been suffering from a degenerative bone disease for a long time. He was now at peace, she said.

    I thanked her but didn’t mention the letter.

    Why didn’t I want to open it?

    Nothing that man could ever say to me could mean more to me than the last words he had spoken before he hugged me.

    Even a warm “I’m sorry” wouldn’t mean anything.

    Those two words are words my father never spoke.

    He did the possible - not the impossible.

    What more can you ask of a man?


    Postlude: Years and years later, after the birth of the Internet, I performed a search
    For context and “meaning”...
    “We know what we are, but know not what we may be” is a quote that features in Act IV, Scene 5 and is spoken by Ophelia. The quote is commonly cited as an example of madness, as King Claudius interprets it, and as a great example of one of the most important themes of the play—uncertainty.

    However, that last line is from the Merchant of Venice and not Hamlet.
    That conflation still puzzles me.

  • Smiles

    Thanks for sharing, Terry.

    Was your mother much of a "fighter" as years went by, or was is primarily an incompatibility conflict with Wesley?

  • NonCoinCollector
    We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

    It sounds like your dad was incapable of being the man he wanted to be. What he failed to realize back then is running away from your problems doesn't solve anything as you can never run away from yourself. Being incompatible with your mother was a symptom of a larger issue is my guess.

  • Terry

    My mother? That's a very "problematic" subject.
    The word "volatile" comes to mind. It sounds like a word you might use to describe
    a combination of chemicals in a chemistry experiment.
    Volatile: liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse.
    By growing up around my mom I developed a keen awareness of the sudden changes in her "weather".
    The slightest tiny disturbances set her off."
    She had a violent temper; no doubt inherited from her father. I grew up in his household along with
    my grandmother.
    More to the point...Scarlett O'Hara was more predictable than my mother. She had a verbal facility
    to take her foes apart like surgical amputations bit by bit.
    I got my verbal "skill" from her, I guess you could say.
    My Dad seemed to me to be a peaceful, low-key person who would walk the other way rather than fight.
    Ironically, I later discovered his side of the family (his Father's) came to America from Finland to AVOID
    being conscripted into the Swedish military. I went to prison for the same reason: except JW style :)

    I take from my father's words that he could ONLY BE his own man and it was impossible otherwise
    to be what other people needed him to be. He wasn't the ideal mate for a woman like my mother.
    She was married four times.
    I confess that I too have been married four times.
    DNA can be a real bastard.

  • Smiles

    So you and your mother became JW, but your mild-mannered father did not...?

  • Fisherman


    It is understandable why your father fled from your mother but it is inexcusable to abandon you. That is a cowardly act.

  • Terry
    Fisherman13 days ago


    It is understandable why your father fled from your mother but it is inexcusable to abandon you. That is a cowardly act.

    I'm 75 now and have been married and divorced 4X. This has worn the tread off my tires and
    pushed my face into a gutter more than once. Perspective is almost possible.
    "Judging" my father is tricky. He was only the man he was and not the one he wished to be.
    Well, yeah. Aren't we all?
    When my JW wife died in a car accident (drunk driving on her part) I had our 3 kids to parent solo
    and they were 13, 11, and 9 years old.

    Speaking only for myself - there was NEVER even the slightest hesitation. I desperately craved to become both father and mother to them.
    I could not and would not do otherwise - not because I'm a better person than my father - but only because I'm myself and not him.
    I'm simply "made that way". He wasn't.

    I parented them solo from 1983 to 1987 and THOSE WERE THE BEST YEARS of my entire life!
    Self-healing it was, to become the Father I never had.
    When I did remarry, I was not successful as a husband/father. I couldn't co-parent without taking
    sides against my new spouse. That's a rotten situation. I didn't have the life skills and all the therapy
    and therapists my money could buy only postponed slightly the demise of marriage relationships.
    So I'm a better father than might have been expected but a real pain in the ass as a husband.
    All in all, I have 7 offspring and they are my life's greatest blessing.
    Somebody once asked me what my Last Words might be.
    I thought about that and answered:
    "If I have the time and circumstance to utter Last Words, it will simply be reciting
    the names of my children THEY will be my prayer:
    Laura, Jason, Vanessa, Terry, Nicholas, Lillian, and Helena.

  • Smiles
  • enoughisenough

    description of the Mother reminded me of Johnny Depp's testimony...and his mild mannered father eventually left the home. It was a sad commentary how the mother treated the Depp family.

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