Bookie in Heaven (A Father’s Day Letter)


Dear Daddy,

I don’t know where you are these days.  Whether it’s a place like heaven with perpetual ESPN, legalized gambling, and really good golf, or if sometimes you hover over each of our houses, checking in, making sure we don’t need walking-around-money or an airline ticket to London.

(By the way, I could use both, though I’d rather go to Bangkok and take my partner along, if you don’t mind.)

Yeah, I have a partner.  Your oldest daughter has turned out to epitomize lipstick lesbian.  I’m the crazy neighbor with two white dogs—the one who drives a pick-up truck and has a house full of books and art that I myself have made.

In fact, I was literally crazy for a good long while.  Guess I got it from Aunt Pearl, whose eccentricity was manifest in citrus.  God, I wish you had been around during those days.  I was sick and so, so poor.  I suppose you wouldn’t have stood for the poverty part.  I suppose you’d have seen that I owned a car, that I had something other than popcorn and pretzels to eat.

I really miss you, Daddy.  It’s kind of crazy how much.

Daddy and I (February 1965)

Maybe that’s why I’m writing a book about you—wanting to bring you back—to make you real again—a part of here, a part of now.  I want folks to know that you were more than just some guy wanted by the FBI.  I want people to know what a kind and caring dad you were—how incredibly much you gave—how you made happiness happen.

Daddy and I (1977)

And maybe that’s what I loved most about you—the fact that you were funny, the fact that you transformed the most mundane of Monday mornings into Sunday celebration special—that when Christmas came around you were Superman in a Santa suit, Robin Hood in elf couture.

My sister Susan (left), Daddy, and me (December 1967)

I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.  I don’t know if you can hear me—if you can even read this letter.  I don’t know what it’s like up there, or what you do all day, if they have Brooks Brothers or Vera Wang wings.  I don’t know if they have bookies in heaven.

My 19th and last birthday with Daddy (March 1981)

I only know I miss you.  I only know I love you.  (And I hope my book will make you happy.)

Daddy and I (June 1963)

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Will you see your Father on Sunday?

(If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir about growing up in an organized crime family.  To read chapter 1, click here.)

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101 thoughts on “Bookie in Heaven (A Father’s Day Letter)

  1. What a Father’s Day tribute—lovely. I especially love the picture of you with your daddy from 1963. Precious. No matter what —the love of a parent is what we miss when they are gone. My own Daddy died in 1994 and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him and wish I could tell him one more time how much I love him.

  2. I won’t see my Dad, but I’ll absolutely call him. The links were wonderful additions to the story. And the tribute was so sad – the picture that said your nineteenth birthday was your last with your father broke my heart.

  3. A heart-breaker, Kathy. After reading the first few lines, I hesitated to go on. The voice of the vulnerable child who just loved her daddy is compelling. None of us are all good, or all bad. We are all of us a mix of both dark and light.

    I can see why you might have troublesome things to work out. You are allowed to love him.

    And I agree with Anonymous, this is the tone of a lovely, lovely memoir. Maybe this is the prologue.

    • Interesting that you mention the notion of using this as a prologue–as I thought about just that as I was writing it. I’m so pleased this post toucned you, Christine! Happy Father’s Day to your dad, as well!

  4. I love how you love your dad, and it’s very apparent that you were loved by him. I would say that heaven does have at least one bookie. This says so much more about your book and why you’re writing it. I think the ‘mob’ story is very very secondary to the love for your dad. I love your pictures, the faces in those pictures are happy and full of love.

    • Yes, yes, it’s about love–all about love. I agree that there is at least one bookie in heaven, and I suppose Daddy is still booking–even behind the pearly gates! Have a great day–and hugs to you!

  5. I really enjoyed this – your love for your Dad shines through.

    I will see my Dad in my boys, in the quiet way they show up… I will see him in me, my love of nature and black licorice … and I will see him in my grand-daughter and her innate ability to put things back together, just as he could fix nearly anything.

    Our Dads are smiling from Heaven and they’re in the winner’s circle at a fabulous track – a track where everyone wins all the time, despite the odds :)

    MJ

  6. Just been reading your draft chapters so though I might as well comment on here as it is vaguely relevant.

    To be contradictory, I thought your first draft chapter was vastly superior, very seriously so. Maybe irrelevant to the main story, but very attention-grabbing. Unlike version 2 which was more on the lines of my dad was a crim. I think you should reconsider that.

    Preface, prologue maybe, but those things are just messy in books. Simple is good. And that was really hard-hitting. Loved it.

    Another comment, I also liked the praying title. Praying is not necessarily passive at all. eg (we are) praying for the mafia. That is an active verb. Active verbs are good. Pray for the mafia is imperative, I like praying better.

    Next, god and mob or mob and god is terrible. You’ve just dragged the whole tenor down. It’s the level of a gutter tabloid.

    Finally (you will be pleased to hear), I think you should make sure there is lots of you in it. Just writing about your father or your parents makes it too distant, it’s the interaction that matters. That’s why the papadoc start was brill IMO.

    You did ask for comments, and I enjoyed reading through your versions. Good luck whatever you decide to do.

    Top tip, sometimes your first ideas are the best though :)

    • Thank you SO much for this comment! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Maybe the Baby Doc piece would work as a preface. And I’m happy to hear you think “praying” is active. In fact, it’s active and on-going. I suppose, however, my publisher will make the ultimate decision regarding title–at least that’s what I’m told will likely happen.

      Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment–and offer such contrete feedback. Truly–thank you!

      • You asked for critique. I’m not a published author of books (I wish) but I am a journalist, so that explains my rationale for wanting my attention to be grabbed immediately.

        I’m not actually commenting on your work, rather the comments you have had on the first two chapters. You don’t always have to take on board any criticism. That’s all.

        Of course, you could always make two books out of it…….

      • Yes, I’ve seriously considered more than one book–an entirely separate book about the year we spent living in Haiti–even another about the year we lived in Vietnam. Thanks for your feedback. I’ve loved hearing from you!

  7. Kathy, the love you feel for your dad comes through with every word. I have to believe that he would get a kick out of you writing a memoir, and I’d just bet if he could, he would sit down beside you, and share a few juicy details. He’d want to be sure it was fun, and jam-packed with the background story. I’m also guessing he would be very proud of you, and so happy for you to have found happiness with Sara.

    My favorite photo is also the last one, but every photo clearly shows that you loved him dearly, and he obviously adored you, as well. How wonderful to have known that kind of beautiful love with your dad.

    Lovely tribute. Yes, your words are keeping him alive. It’s been wonderful meeting him through your words. Sometimes I completely forget about what he did for a living, and all I can see is the guy that was somebody’s daddy. That’s how powerful your words have been. Lovely tribute.

    • God, I can’t tell you how much I love your mentioning the possibility of my dad sitting down next to me–wanting to share the most juicy details. I swear to God, that is SO my dad! I can tell you see who he really was in that comment, my friend. Thank you for that. I’m deeply touched—and weeping! Thank you!

      • Didn’t mean to bring the weeping water to your eyes, but I really can imagine him next to you, knee-to-knee, and he would be smiling and excited, weaving words with you. Every now and then, the twinkle would spark in his eyes, and then, when he saw the corners of your mouth begin to turn up in recognition, his face would reward you with a quirked and slanted smile. My guess is that one of the reasons that you carried so much love for your dad is that he had a way of hearing you, when no one else was really listening. That little moment of recognition that passed between you is still there, and as you write your words about your life, and his life … well, I just know he’d be egging you on. More, Katherine. More.

      • I love the thought–so my tears are, in many ways, happy ones–feeling like he’s close. I will keep these images close as I write! Thank you, my friend! Thank you, so much!

  8. Really nice piece, Kathryn. The photos make it so much more intimate, and we feel like we’re right there with you.

    I will not be with my dad, but will definitely call him.

    • Thank you so much for reading. I’m delighted you think this piece works. It was certainly cathartic for me to write, as well. Happy Father’s Day to you dad, as well–and you, if you’re a father!

  9. Lovely. This brought a tear to my eye Kathy….the photos of you with your father are precious. Big hug.
    p.s I think it’s great that the over-riding sentiment behind writing this memoir is a tribute to a daughter’s love for her father. This would indeed make a pertinent prologue…

  10. Kathy, this is a beautiful letter to your father. He would be SO very proud of you. I’m sorry that he can’t be with you this Father’s Day. I can feel the ache you carry for him in your heart through these words.

    Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for every day that I have with my dad. I’m sorry to say it doesn’t always occur to me. And I will definitely be seeing him this weekend.

    • Ah, I’m so happy this post touched you, Terri. And how wonderful that you will get to see your dad this weekend. What a gift you are to him–not only your kidney, but the heart of you, as well.

  11. Your dad sounds like he was a very generous and warm-hearted kind of guy proving that a mobster can also be a family man. It’s too bad that he checked out when you were so young, but he left you with many colorful and fond memories. I’m visiting my family in the SF Bay Area right now so I’ll be spending FD with my Dear Old Dad.

  12. Kathy – In my opinion, our family members and other loved ones who are on “the other side” do, indeed, know what’s going on with us — when it’s important. And your book is more than important to you, so it’s known and important to your dad, too. He’s got to be beaming over this heart-felt Father’s day letter!

    • Oh, I love the thought of his “beaming.” That makes me so, so happy, and somehow I think you are right. I think he knows about the memoir, as well. At least, I hope he does. And I hope he’s proud. Thanks, Laurie!

  13. Wow, Kathy this is absolutely beautiful! I am sure he would be so incredibly proud of you. Your love for him shines through in your work. And to loose him so many years ago at such a young age is heartbreaking. I think this is some of your most beautiful writing. I wonder if you could use it somewhere in the prologue as a dedication to your father and why you are writing this book. It is extremely powerful. Thank you so much for sharing! :) nicole

    • Nicole, thank you for this sweet comment. I hadn’t thought the writing was all that special–emotional, yes, beautiful–no–so I am thrilled with your response. I hope he is, indeed, proud.

  14. Kathy, such a nice letter and tribute to your father. I didn’t realize how young you were when you lost him. My father is gone, too, but it’s okay. He and I didn’t have the kind of relationship you and yours did. I can’t imagine what it was like to have a father like yours (without the bookie part, I mean).

    • I’m sorry you, too, lost your dad, Monica, and sorry your relationship with your dad wasn’t that great. What saddens me in my own case is that I didn’t appreciate my dad when he was alive. We had some of the issues adolescents often have with parents and my dad was FAR from perfect. It’s really only now that I’ve begun to appreciate the positives. It makes me sad, and I’m sorry your dad didn’t offer some of the positives my dad, even with his many obvious faults, did. Hugs to you, my friend.

  15. This is beautiful. He must be close as you write the book, whispering over your shoulder, cigarette in one hand and cocktail in the other. I bet he mixes a mean martini in Heaven.

  16. Aww. Great letter, Kathy. I’d like to think your dad is seeing some really great music shows these days. John Lennon, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix. Hopefully he’s rockin’ out!

    I’m lucky because I will get to see my dad. The day before, anyway. Hope you and Sara have a wonderful weekend.

    • I hope he’s getting to hear some great music, as well. He was a big fan of Broadway musicals–so I suspect he enjoyed the Tony Awards this past weekend–and had strong opinions on the outcome. Hope you and Tara have a wonderful weekend, as well. Happy Father’s Day, my friend.

  17. What a wonderful tribute to your Dad! I’m not sure what lies beyond the grave either, but I like to think that we can communicate our feelings on some deep level. And if not, at least it gives me solace to think I can. :-) Have a wonderful weekend.

    Hugs,
    Cecelia

    • Absolutely, it makes us feel better–lots better–regardless. I’m so happy you enjoyed my post. It’s great to hear from you today! Hope you have a lovely weekend, as well! Hugs to you————–

  18. Wow, Kathy. Beautiful tribute.
    The loss of your dad has left a huge hole in your heart. It seems he was taken much too soon and at a time when you were very vulnerable. Your attempts to keep his memory alive are one path to healing.
    We all appreciate your transparency.
    Peace,
    Alexandria

  19. I’m going to echo a comment I saw above…I think this sets the whole tone of your story. Because it’s really, when it comes down to bare bones, about your love for your dad. Such love here. Such truthful writing.

  20. Oh, Sista. How I envy you. The love you have for your dad, and his obvious love for you, are the epitome of what Father’s Day is all about. That sentence: I only know I love you—brought me to tears. I must happily, loudly and staunchly second CMSmith’s suggestion that this letter be the prologue to your book. What a wonderful idea!…….. Incidentally, there is a book out there that helped me get through some of the roughest years of my relationship with my dad. It’s by Louie Anderson and it’s called Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child. I used it as a skeleton to write my way out of all the anguish and pain. This post reminds me of the end of that book, where Louie finally forgives his dad for all the crap, and all that’s left is the love he feels for his dad. That is what is SO prevalent here. Your love for your dad. Great job!

    • Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned this letter in terms of it’s healing potential, as not everything with my dad was perfect or rosy, by any means. I’ve had tons of therapy to deal with the dysfuntion. And in some ways, this letter and the book itself feel like final step in that process.

      Can’t wait to see you, Sista! Only 2 weeks!!!!!!

  21. I was really touched by this letter, and I felt your heart in every word. What’s so intriguing to me (and what I believe is the essence of what will make your book great) is the tender, protective and ferocious loyalty you obviously feel for your father … when what would seem more likely is that you’d feel betrayed, let down or stigmatized by the choices he made in his life. That’s what I feel is so fascinating and real and unique about your story…. and why I want to know more, more and more about him — and YOU! xooxox b

    • Hmmmmmm–I hadn’t even thought of that as part of what makes it unique, but I guess it might. Like I’ve said to others, however, things weren’t always perfect with my dad, by any means, and I’ve had tons of therapy. I could never have written this letter 15 years ago. But, I do love my dad. I really, really do. Thanks for reading my–and hugs to you!

  22. What a song of love you sing, my dear Kathryn. How beautiful your words……..You are a poet who sings with the wisdom of an ancient and the voice of a little girl. I hope you include this letter somewhere in your book. Blessings to you and Sara. xoxo Julia

  23. This is such a beautiful and poignant letter, Kathy. I really enjoyed it, and it made me think about my dad and the importance of appreciating those around us while they’re still with us. My favorite part of this post was how your dad “made happiness happen.” That is so true. There are those people that completely light up a room and transform the ordinary. Thanks for sharing so much of your life and in the process, inspiring others to be more real and open. Have a wonderful weekend, and for the record, I think it’s badass that you’re the lipstick lesbian neighbor with the dogs and the partner! ;)

  24. This is so sweet, Kathy. I got tears in my eyes. It would be interesting to write a letter back to yourself from your daddy in heaven. And, who knows, it might even be him helping to write it to you through your unconscious!

  25. What a lovely tribute to your dad, Kathy. I can understand how writing your book helps bring him closer to you. When I was writing my novel, I felt the presence of my grandparents a lot of times. It’s nice to think that energy is with you. I’m sure he’ll be with you for Father’s Day tomorrow.

  26. This was lovely to read, Kathy. I see my father every day. He died in 1995 but he’s there at every turn. My dad was RCMP – opposite side of the law as yours I suppose. But it doesn’t matter – only that they are great dads. That’s most important.

    We have a couple of things in common. Pearl is my grandmother’s name. And I turned 18 in March of 1981. :)

    • Interesting to know we are about the same age and that our birthdays are so close. You’re right. What matters most is that they were great dads. Thanks so much for reading. Great to hear from you today.

  27. I’ve no doubt he’s happy about the book you’re writing and is incredibly proud of you. I couldn’t get through this post without tearing up. I lost my dad when I was 21, so the picture of you with him on your birthday really hit home. Thinking of you this Father’s Day, Kathy.

  28. Gorgeous post, Kathy. I think your dad will be very proud of the book you write, and of course he must be beaming with pride at what a great daughter you are in general. :) I didn’t get to see my dad on Sunday, but it was nice to even hear his voice on the voicemail message when I called.

  29. Incredibly touching Father’s Day post, Kathy. I bet your Dad, wherever he may be, loved it. :)

    I did not see my father on Father’s Day, but will be lucky enough to see him soon. I’m grateful he is still around.

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