How are things going beyond the pearly gates? I trust you're in fine company and you keep your harp well-tuned.
I could have sent you an e-mail but have no idea what the computer situation is like in heaven. Besides, a letter is still far more personal. You always believed that, being a man of letters, yourself.
Hard to believe 35 years have passed since you left us. I can remember gathering by your bedside and hearing your words of reassurance.
"I'm going on to a better world," you said. "Take care of mother."
Well, mother has turned 98 and is still full of pep, living in a nursing home and keeping the other residents amused with her humor and wisdom. Who would have ever guessed she would become the last remaining survivor of the Armenian genocide in our city?
Bet you thought by now both of you would be reunited. Wait a while! She wants a letter from the president when she turns 100.
You must have been surprised like the rest of us to be joined by your other favorite son, whose funeral was 10 years ago. He went much too quickly.
A lot has happened since then. We have five grandchildren, ages 8 months to 8 years. The oldest two are into school and doing well. They play deck hockey, basketball, tennis and are into computer games. Two other boys are ages 3 and 2, fight over each other's toys, and compete for attention. You would have loved their vitality.
Mazie's the newest arrival and a real head-turner. Had you been here, you would have spoiled five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. When they visit mother in the nursing home, it turns into a romper room as you might expect.
Your years on earth didn't go very far when you consider 66. The pity of it all was the fact you never did get to enjoy retirement like me. But it was a good and decent life, dad, full of abundance.
One thing I learned over the years: a man never knows how to be a son until he has become a father. You were well ahead of your time. You always had the best answers. I remember one time loafing around the street when you took me aside and gave me some advice.
You said, "The best way to kill time was to work it to death." I never forgot that.
The coffee shop you operated for 30 years has since been replaced by business offices. Same with the movie theater next door, which was your grand escape on a hectic Sunday afternoon. We'd find you napping away in the back row.
I paid $12 to get into a movie last weekend. Gone are the days when you could see two pictures for a quarter. When I used to devour a nickel chocolate bar, you chastised me for eating the profits.
The schoolhouses we attended as kids have given way to ultra-modern apartment complexes. The face of the neighborhood has changed dramatically. Your best friend is seldom your neighbor anymore.
After four decades of newspaper work, I finally retired four years ago after seeing some of the luster taken out of the industry. More and more people are getting their news off the Internet and television. Remember when we used to have only four channels? Now I have 150 choices and TV screens are like movie screens. You build a room around one.
I'm still writing. The Armenian papers look forward to getting stories as well as my own Haverhill Gazette, where I still contribute a weekly column. I continue to live by the Golden Rule — and get the last word.
I've been to Armenia twice, traveled the Mediterranean and we'll be taking our third Caribbean cruise this January.
At least you got to drive across country just before your cancer struck. I remember you telling me to visit the national parks if I did nothing else. That's next on my agenda.
Nancy still enjoys following the school system, six years after she called it quits, disgruntled by the cutbacks in education. She feels students are being shortchanged and is happy to be out.
Colleges are up around $40,000 to $50,000 a year these days. Remember how you balked at $2,500 when you sent me? You made me work for it in the coffee shop.
The world is fast progressing but I'm not so sure it's all positive. What I wouldn't give to be back in the 1950s again with you.
Til death brings us back together, have a nice Father's Day.
Your loving son, Tom
Tom Vartabedian, retired from the Haverhill Gazette as a photographer and writer, contributes this weekly column.