Word Count: 1223
“There’s a letter from Joe, Pa,” called Hoss the minute he opened the door.
Ben, who had been resting his weary body in his favorite chair, quickly jumped to his feet and met his middle son half way across the room. He had been waiting all day, hoping to receive some word from his youngest son who had been gone for nearly a month to San Francisco on business for him.
“What’s it say?” asked Adam as he stood to his feet and moved behind Ben, trying to read over his father’s shoulder.
“Does he say when he’s comin’ home?” Hoss wanted to know.
“Hold on, hold on, give me a minute to read it,” laughed Ben who glanced quickly at both boys.
Ben chuckled; he had missed his son terribly and from the looks on Adam and Hoss’ faces, it was evident that they had missed Little Joe as well. Ben moved back to his chair and sat down, opening with care the folded papers. His eyes quickly scanned the letter and then he glanced up at Hoss.
“Sorry son, he doesn’t say anything about when he’ll be home. Now give me a minute to read it, Adam, and I’ll share the news with you,” Ben smiled.
Ben began reading silently the words scribbled in his youngest son’s backhanded writing.
I just wanted to write a quick note. I knew I wouldn’t make it home in time to tell you in person, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to say what’s in my heart. Besides, it’s easier to say on paper what’s hard to put in words when standing face to face to someone whom you care as much about as I care about you. I don’t know why that is, but it is, maybe because I’m older now and telling your Pa, ‘I love you’, seems a little harder to say when you’re twenty instead of ten.
I want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day…please, don’t laugh at me, Pa, because I mean it from the bottom of my heart. You have been the best father a guy could ever have; all three of us know that. But you’ve been more than just a father to me; you’ve been a mother to me as well. It may sound silly, and I’m sure that if my friends heard me talking like this, well, they’d probably laugh and make fun of me. But I don’t care. It’s true.
I remember nights after Ma died, when you would come into my room and stay with me when I’d had a nightmare and had trouble going back to sleep. I always knew that I could count on you to stay right there with me, all night if I needed you to, and come morning when I woke up, sure enough, you’d be there. Thanks, Pa!
I remember other times, like when I was sick and needed nursing, you never sent to town for some strange woman to come out and care for me, not my Pa. You were always the one who kept me cooled with your compresses and forced me to eat when I wasn’t really hungry and insisted that I drink that horrible concoction that Hop Sing mixed together. You did it because you loved me and wanted me to get better, which somehow, it always worked, in spite of the fuss I usually put up. Thanks, Pa!
And Pa, those times that I was in trouble, you were always there to bail me out. And let’s not forget the lectures that I had to sit through and all the shouting you did, and I remember the thrashings as well. All because you wanted me to be a better person and grow up with values and be someone whom you could be proud of. I’m not sure I’ve gotten there yet, but I’m trying Pa, all because you instilled in me the desire to be a man of honor like yourself. I don’t think I’ll ever compare with you, you are the finest man I’ve ever known and I’m proud as proud can be that God saw fit to make you my Pa and my ma.
I can remember when I was little and still in school. When we would have those special mother day banquets and I didn’t have a mama to go with me, you never complained or seemed to feel out of place being the only father there. The kids used to make fun of me, but after awhile they were amazed that you came back, year after year. And I remember some of the fellas telling me how neat they thought you were and how lucky that I was cause I had a pa that didn’t mind being a mother for just one day. Well, Pa, it wasn’t just one day. It was every day. You were both pa and ma to me and there are no words that I could ever say to you that would explain to you the depths of love, respect, gratitude, and thanks that I have in my heart for all that you have done and given to me.
Saying thank you just doesn’t seem enough, somehow. I feel like I’ve given very little in return for your sacrifices and all your hard work at making me what I am today. But I want you to know that I appreciate everything that you have ever done, for every tear that you have shed for me, for every whispered prayer that you have prayed and for every ounce of love you have in your heart for me.
Thank you Pa, for being both father and mother to me. I love you from the bottom of my heart, I hope you know that.
Happy Mother’s Day, Pa
Your loving and devoted son,
Joseph Francis Cartwright.
Ben slowly folded the letter in half and stuck it back into the envelope. As he stood up, he placed the envelope into his vest pocket, next to his heart. Without a word or glance, he turned from his sons and headed for the door.
“Pa?” Adam called out.
Ben stopped as he placed his hat on his head. “Yes, Adam?”
Adam glanced at Hoss and then back at his father. “Is everything okay?”
Ben smiled, “Yes, son, everything’s just fine, why?”
“Well, from the look on your face, we just thought that something might be wrong. What did Joe say?” Adam explained.
Ben’s smile broadened as he strapped on his gun and holster. “Oh, he just wrote to wish me happy Mother’s Day.” Ben turned and was out the door before either Adam or Hoss could make a comment.
Hoss glanced at Adam; both wore confused expressions on their faces as they stared at one another.
Outside, alone, Ben pulled his handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped the tears from his eyes before blowing his nose. As he stood, propped against the railing of the fence, he glanced upward and smiled.
“Thank you Lord. I wasn’t aware that I had done such a fine job, being both mother and father to that boy, I mean. Seems like he’s gonna turn out all right after all. Happy Mother’s Day, Marie my love!”