Best way to express deep (lifelong) gratitude to my father?

Basically I have things I want to say to my father (in his 60s), that I have just come to realize in the past few years. My dad has spent his entire life being a selfless, loving father and husband and I want to let him know that this has profoundly impacted me in a positive way. I think it’s important that he hears from me that his selflessness and humanity have deeply touched me and influence how I try and live my life. I want him to know that his sacrifices were not in vain. My biggest fear is my father passing away without me telling him what he truly has meant to me.

I worried that if I do it in person, I will either become too emotional or not really express the things I want him to know. I might have a tendency to be too succinct and not really convey the specifics things I have thought about. So, the other option is writing him a letter. That way I can say everything just the way I want to say it, although I wouldn’t be present (I guess I could hand him the letter and awkwardly stand there while he reads it…). Do you have experience doing this “thanks for life talk” one way or the other with a parent or loved one?

On the flip side, has anyone ever expressed their gratitude to you in an unexpected but meaningful way?

It seems to me that you’re concentrating too much on the value and impact that this expression of gratitude will have for you, and not enough on what would work best for your father. You know and admire him – what would he find most meaningful, an in-person talk (even if it didn’t express everything you wanted to say) or a letter? What does he enjoy most about your relationship? Do you go to sporting events together, play video games, engage in political discussions? Can you arrange to spend time with him in a way that he would really enjoy, so that your expression of gratitude becomes part of a memorable shared experience? Then you can either thank him directly or leave him with a letter that says what you want to say. But I think you’ll do best if you make it about him rather than about you. Being with him and showing him who you’ve become is really the best thanks that you can give him.

No advice. I think this is SO sweet, though :slight_smile:

I know this is a hopeless gender stereotype, but I think what my father would like to hear most from his daughter (me) is something like, “I love you, Daddy. Thank you for everything you done for me over the years.” (which I did say once, and made the stoic bear wipe away a tear when he thought I wasn’t looking) and from my brothers, something like, “Hey, man…thanks. Want a beer?”

He would be horribly embarrassed and uncomfortable with more than that. But maybe that’s just my dad.

I have no experience with this, although I’m eternally grateful for my parents and what they’ve done for me. I recommend that the OP write a letter (preferably hand written) to his/her father expressing these thoughts. My guess is that he will treasure it for ever.

Wow. I feel the exact same way as the OP. Like verbatim. Wow. Reading this made my eyes get heavy.

A couple of months before my dad died I drove 400 some miles and spent the weekend with him. I knew the writing was on the wall; he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and it didn’t sound good. Little did I know he’d be gone within a couple of months.

Anyway, I’m glad I did that, but now regret not telling him how much I loved him and how important his influence was on my life. I can’t imagine doing this by letter, or email, or Facebook.

Do it in person. Go for a walk with your dad and spill your guts; I wish I had. I am very, very glad I took a few days off work and spent an entire weekend with him a couple of months before he died. Jeez, he was only 72. You never know.

Yep. Worried about becoming too emotional? Don’t worry; become as emotional as all heck. If the both of you aren’t crying, you aren’t doing it right…

Well, okay, seriously, a lot depends on how stoic you both are, how resistant to sentimentality, how stony-faced and macho.

When the day came for me to say thanks, I picked my old man up, spun him in the air, and put him down (okay, a bit gently) in the grass. He was grinning like a drunken jackass, but, the point was, he was happy. He wanted the kind of son who’d pick him up and toss him around some. It was one of the best moments of his life.

Sometimes, you can manage to say a lot without saying much. Set out on the front porch, side by side, beers in hand, looking at the sunset, and murmur, “Hey, paw. Thanks.” And he’ll spit and say, “You ever get that truck fixed?” but what he really means is, “Thank you, too.”

6 pack of beer and a hooker.

Try to be as good a man as he was.

Sneak up from behind, wrap him in a big hug, and don’t let him squirm away until you have said what needs to be said. You’ll know that your message has settled in once he stops struggling.

Seriously, talk to him.

I can appreciate your concerns about becoming too emotional, it takes focus from where it belongs and often makes the praise receiver race through it all, to stop the tears etc.

I vote for a combo of both. I think a letter gives you an opportunity to express yourself more fully and more carefully. Your father would treasure such a letter all his life. It would be something he could go to, whenever he felt the need. That would be awesome, for you both.

But have something short and sweet and to the point to say when you give him the letter. Tell him to read it when he’s alone, has the time, etc. Offer up a brief summary of what it is; “I just thought it was time you were acknowledged for all you mean to me, how you help hold up the sky in my world, that’s all!”

Best of both worlds, he gets a lovely touching moment, without too much pressure, no blubbering to quell. You get an opportunity to say fully what you feel. He gets to treasure the letter, for the rest of his life, and the sentiment it contains.

And yes, I think you’re a wonderful son, and your Dad, no doubt, a wonderful Dad. (He has my congratulations on raising such a fine son!)

Whatever else you do, write a letter. He can (and probably will) keep it forever, reread it, etc.
Give specific examples of things he did that meant a lot to you.

I wrote one for each of my parents before I got married, and they both told me how much it meant to them.

Also, I have continued to write my parents once a week for going on about fifteen years now. (Snail mail.) They like it a lot.

Once I sent my mother a Mother’s Day card that said, “Thanks. You mommed me good.” Maybe you could do one that said, “dadded” instead.

Just tell him. He’ll understand.

The thing about us Dads is that our children’s happiness is its own reward. Gratitude is a bonus; I love and care for my daughter not for myself, or for any sot of reward, or out of any legal sense of obligation, but because it’s just who I am. It’s as much as part of me as sleeping or breathing.

A fifteen-second speech would strike your father as sensationally touching and meaningful. You really don’t need to go into too many details, because he knows the details.

Or you could just go with the tried and true swift knee to his jimmies followed by a hand clasp to his shoulder. As he is gasping, look him in the eye, say “Dad”, and slightly you nod your head once. He’ll understand, and the tears from physical pain will cover for the tears from sentiment.

Thing is, details DO seem important to me. I mean, I want to make connections about certain things, so my dad knows how I have come to see the world and how this is relevant to him. This wouldn’t be something that he could just observe by spending time with me over a beer. Saying “hey pa, thanks for everything…etc” is fine, but to me misses the point. My dad is a thinking man; a reader and conversationalist. I do think it would be nice for him to understand how I have come to see the world through his influence. Part of this is that I feel like he hasn’t really received recognition in a concrete way for his influence on us kids. We all love him, and I’m sure he knows this, but we all struggle in our own ways with demons, big and small. I think my dad still sees me as a “kid” (I’m early 30s) and doesn’t really understand my adult sensibilities. I want him to know that his example has been a PROFOUND impact, not an incidental one.

I think I am leaning towards giving him a letter in person, with a little conversation beforehand…

A 62 year old father here,

I’ve has a somewhat more distant relationship with one of my daughters than I would have liked. Then about 4 months ago she hugged me tight and told me that she loved me. That’s all I needed or wanted to make me feel like my life was complete.

Best of luck.

I made it a point to thank my father in a Big Picture way, and to check in with him to make sure he took it the way I was hoping. I also asked if there was anything he wanted to make sure I understood or that we needed to discuss while we had the opportunity. The specifics of his response are not for sharing here, but the point is that he clearly appreciated the gesture of the big thank you and the check-in.

Good for you for doing this. I have adolescent kids myself now; I need to see how this plays out for me :wink:

I vaguely remember seeing a letter in Dear Abby or Ann Landers column about a teacher who received a letter of appreciation from a former student. As I remember, the teacher was buried with the letter. So I think a written form of expression would be appreciated.

That’s a shame it didn’t get there in time. But then again, that postman really went above and beyond.