Dear Dad: The Undelivered Letter

January 29th, 2015. I was sitting in the airport, getting ready to fly to Phoenix for a week of sales meetings and work. My flight was delayed, my phone rang – it was my grandparents I didn’t want to answer, but I did. 

It was the first time I had ever heard him cry. In that moment, all words had gone deflated. I could not speak. I could not think – I just tried to process the words out of my Grandfather’s mouth: Your dad has passed away.

Should I get on my flight and go to work, or not? I had no self control – no idea what was reality and what wasn’t. Was I dreaming? 

I started shaking – crying profusely.

I called my mom, she told me she was trying to find a way to tell me.

The night before I had an incredibly lucid dream – it drove me awake around 400a. I thought that my uncle had called to tell me the news, I actually checked my phone – but- it was all a dream. Now, I realize it was my dad coming to say good-bye.

Today, one-year later since that horrible phone call – we are all down here celebrating you, and all that you did. I will spend the day out on the mountain – reminiscing about all the amazing ski days we shared together and then hop on my bike to spin a few miles just for you. 

I haven’t been drinking in preparation for one of the biggest bike races of my bike – but – tonight, I will have some whiskey and cheers the sky.


Dear Dad,

I had been working on a letter to you for several years. I thought I had more time, and I would have been able to share it with you – but – I wasn’t.

If anyone has taught me what unconditional love is, I have to say it is you Dad.

You have taught me how to be brave, how to stand strong to what I want + follow my intuitions – you have taught me to be a hard worker. You taught me that I am just as tough as the boys. You have also taught me how to be a total ass, I am actually thankful for that attribute.

I cannot thank you + Mom enough for dragging Sarah and I around the US, so that our family could be a part of the ‘next great ski destination’. Because of that, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself + the quality of life that suits me best.

But, Dad – you also did a lot of stuff that left me angry, upset and weakened our relationship for a few years. I have a hard time forgetting things – and one of the things I will never let go of is the promise you made to Sarah and I; you promised that we would have to agree that we liked the person you were dating. We liked a lot of them – but – then you led us astray. However, I cannot stay mad at you – I am going to thank you, because that made my sister and I grow much stronger.

I hope more than anything that for the 28 years we had together that I have made you proud. My biggest concern with you leaving us so soon is that I will not be able to fulfill all the things you have expected out of me. I hope you’re proud that I have a job and that I am fully self-sufficient all though I still wish you were there to give me our secret $100 gas help every now and then – don’t worry I still won’t tell. I hope you are proud of all the ‘drastic’ decisions I made in my last 10-years of adulthood. Most of all, I hope you are proud of all the biking feats I have successfully taken on.

In 2005, the year I graduated from high school, you gifted me with a Cannondale R500. To date, it has been one of the most memorable gifts I have ever received (beside my student loan being paid off). I also remember I had no interest in riding that bike. Mom + Ed used to cringe everything I would head out solo on HWY 135 in Crested Butte.

As I invested more time in learning how to pedal, I slowly saw the therapy road rides were able to provide.  During the last Christmas we spent together, we drove to the airport and you told me how much you missed riding you bike – and the freedom it brought. Even on the days that I don’t want to be on my bike, I think of this and it completely changes my mindset. Now, I know why you rode – it was the easiest way to escape reality and to make you feel untouchable - I love feeling untouchable.  With well over ten-years of road riding under my belt now, I certainly understand there is no better feeling of clarity then when I am on my bike.

I have so many amazing memories of us riding bikes together; I am so happy I have those.

How about all the times we rode Donner Pass together? As soon as we reached the base of the pass you would always shout ‘see you at the top!’ that was my immediate queue to show you how good I was at tackling grueling climbs. When we would both reach the top, we would share our times with each other.

Thank you for teaching me how to play around in my gears – and how my legs should feel in every different ring that good ole’ R500 had to offer. I have to admit, that even with how comfortable I am with shifting on my bike I still cannot drive a stick-shift car to save my life.

I loved seeing the way you would light up when the Tour de France would be on TV every year – you had me planted in front of the TV watching LeMond, Ullrich and of course Lance. You were always a Lance fan. As I grew up we would update each other on finishes via text.
One of my favorite bike memories was when Tour of California came through Truckee. You talked me into doing the citizen’s hill climb at Northstar. I believe I was yet again the only girl that showed up for this crazy event – I rolled out of the start and as I ascended you surprised me with painting on the road the entire 3-mile course “GO LIZZIE!” “LIZZIE PUNCH IT!” “ALL MOST THERE LIZZIE!” “SHIFT!”. I rode that same route in April 2014, this also marks the last time that we skied together, you knew that I was getting ready for some crazy endurance bike adventure so you made me a route that would give me optimal climbing: a 5-mile loop from the base of the mountain to mid-station, where I would gain 1,000 feet in elevation every go-around. You said I should do it 10 times – well, I only made it 5 times.

Thursday night summer mountain bike races were always a hit. You would sit there on your four-wheeler and give me time splits from the other girls. Some how after yelling splits you managed to have impeccable timing with going back to finish a mountain project only to casually find me again on the course shouting: GO FASTER LIZZIE! GO! even if I was in the lead. 

The name Lizzie will always be special to me, because that is what you called me. The same goes for Bud, because that is what Mom has always called me. 

You were completely in love with your job; you would completely light-up when it came time to turn those snow guns on every year. You worked so hard - endless hours during the winter. You would act like you were annoyed by it...but...we all really know you were like a little kid in a candy shoppe. Your line of work fascinated me - I believe that at one point I even claimed I was going to be a snowmaker.   I thought it was so cool that you had your own cat in Aspen, I think that would drive any kid to the point of wanting to do what their dad did. I felt especially cool when I picked up the snowmaker lingo...    
Did I mention by dad was a complete stud? My god, he was a looker! He sure did wear that salt + pepper hair proudly. Even as his body started to fail him he still managed to impress me with his pure strength. Our last bike ride together, he pulled me around Donner Lake at a casually maintained pace of 19 mph. 

Remember when you moved to Tahoe? I believe it was September 2005. I was in my dorm room and my phone rang – you said ‘guess where I am moving? Tahoe!’ This was a 18-year old sorority girls worst nightmare.  I was so hesitate to have a parent close to me, just when I wanted my independence. However, now – now, I am extremely thankful that you moved to Tahoe. I fee like our relationship grew leaps + bounds. Thank you for all the dinners in the little Tahoe Donner cabin that allowed me to escape from dorm food. Thanks for bringing be back to reality and the comfort of a small town.
Dad, I am pretty sure that you were also a dog-whisperer. You always had the best dogs - Stasha, Hayden, Buck, Dolly. You and Hayden had something special - I remember in Aspen, you taught him how to SIT on the snowmobile and get a ride up to your mid-mountain office. They say dogs are like their owners, I saw that in Dolly. As you slowly started to deteriorate, you held a 'don't bother me with that petty shit' way to life, Dolly oddly enough was very similar. 

You met every single one of my boyfriends. You would always judge them on if they knew how to 'turn a screwdriver'. Up until now, I am pretty sure that the only one you actually liked was Kevin because you were able to talk about trucks, tractors, splitting-wood and man-shit that meant nothing to me. During every breakup during college you were the one that always told me there was someone better. You also told me to keep my legs closed until I was 35 – thanks dad – you had so many comments like that would make me chuckle and roll my eyes. However, the last one you met – the guy that has comforted me through this dark time is a stud, I really think you guys would have gotten a long well - he likes fixing things, bikes and things with motors. At least you were able to pound a few beers together…

While I was in town for a ‘sneaky visit’ over the summer (that is what we used to call them, when he didn’t want to get in trouble – yes, that actually happened, sometimes we even had to meet in different locations across town - just to share a 'hi' and a hug) – emotion hit me like a pound of bricks. You were starting to pack + consolidate your life. It made me realize how real this was, and how much I hated it. It made me realize how unfair your situation was – at your age you shouldn’t have to prepare for death, but, some how you did it with finesse and beauty.

You told me a story about you and your pal Cliffy skiing once, the conditions were shitty – it was heavy California crud. Cliffy said “I’d rather be dead than ski this…’ your response was ‘I’ll trade you.’

Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for being upfront about your situation. You called me in 2011, just days after you May birthday – and told me there was something wrong. You were blunt; you said ultimately you were going to die. You didn’t want to keep this a secret. I crumbled onto the kitchen floor – confused, frustrated, and sad; this isn’t supposed to be happening.

I wish that we had had a closer relationship during our time together. I am not sure if regret is the right word, but, I regret not knowing more about you. Not having stories of your life to treasure and smile, stories to share down the road with others. As we get closer to living in two different worlds I feel as though there is still so much I don’t know about you – I know you have amazing stories hidden away.

I regret not making a more valiant effort to see you more and to understand you. At this point, all I do know is that you are my dad and I love you. I wish these aliments hadn't affected you. I desperately wanted you to see me grow up – I wanted you to be the person that gave me away, I wanted to gift you with becoming a grandfather.

Sending love to you – where ever you are. 

Over and out 300

Your daughter Lizzie.

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