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21st Birthday Letter

My Father wrote me a letter on my 21st birthday about what he and my mother had tried to impart to me.  Here is a copy of that letter.  I have read it many times through my life.  I recommend you write your child a similar letter when they become of age.

January 1968

To my son Roger on his 21st Birthday

Dear son. I hardly know what or how to start a letter of the kind I want this to be. Probably first and most important is my love for you. Men and boys, men and men do not express their feelings for each other as to love near enough. Fathers just take it for granted that their sons know they love them but have trouble in expressing this to them.

Secondly is how proud I am of you as a man. You have fulfilled all of the hopes and expectations a father could have for a son. We have talked of these things some what in the process of our many enjoyable golf games together and I have tried to tell you during these times the many things I have learned in my short life time. Things that might be of value to you as you developed. You have proven to be the type of boy, and now man, that I am proud to have as a son. Manly, yet gentle - studious and intelligent and yet able to turn a joke or quip. - understanding of the weaknesses of others but strong in your mind and body - thoughtful of the aged and with respect for their knowledge and infirmities, yet in yourself intelligent, more and far deeper than they. I could continue for pages trying to tell you how and what I feel you are but I think you know how I feel and your Mother feels about you.

You will never know unless you have a son of your own like you, how much it meant to me when I was in the Hospital this last time in Paola, your care of me and the little thoughtful things you did. I loved you the more for it.

As to the future, I do not know of anything I could say to you more than I have previously. I tried to pass on to you the ideals one should strive for. It is sure I have not been perfect, have made many mistakes and have not always been perfectly honest. As a boy I had to learn just the same as you did. However, as an adult I have tried to set you an example of honesty and good living. Your Mother and I are very religious people even though you kids never really felt this possibly. What your belief as far as religion is concerned is within you. It will probably change and reform and be remolded many times in your life. One thing is essential which you already know. The golden rule of always try to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Have your belief whatever it may be and then live and be true to your religion. Above all donít be a hypocrite by professing one and living another, as so many men do today.

Remember the little sayings I have tried to pass on to you from my father and others. "Keep on keeping on." Also many times I have repeated this to myself whether it was when trying to untangle a snarled kite string as a boy or trying to solve some problem as a man. My Father taught me that you did not have an education until you know something about everything. Until you had the knowledge to talk to a banker, lawyer, welder or shrimper, regardless of the occupation. To talk intelligently to them about their subject. Know medicine, your specialty, but donít lose yourself so completely in this one thing to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Take time to see the trees, birds, grass, and sky - to see and appreciate the wonders of nature around you in addition to the wonders of the human body.

Marriage is a subject I have never had too much time to talk to you about. Now I donít know if I shall have time to so will cover some of it now. Probably most important is to remember there are two sides to everything. No marriage is smooth at all times. You will feel sometimes that you are doing all the giving and your wife is doing all the taking but at times like this if you will remember to give more, try to understand the other side also, you will come through most troubles OK. Marriage, especially in the first 6-8 years is no bed of roses for either partner but from the start try to get small misunderstandings out in the open and talk about them and then they go away. One last must: never go to sleep angry. Talk it out, kiss and make up before going to sleep. Books have been and will be written on the subject, none of which could or would fit your specific problem which might arise, but as long as you have mutual respect, understanding and like each other this will build during the years into a love such as you mother and I enjoy. It is not easy, sometimes seems impossible but if you both work at it, the rewards are great and life is worth the effort of existence.

So on the day of your 21st birthday I can only say I, as well as your Mother, have given you our inheritance of good hardy stock, good reputation, family background both on the Sinclair and Knapp line of inheritance of men who did great things and made their mark on this world, even if sometimes only slight. We have brought you to this day in a condition of mind, body and soul as best we could and we are proud of the results of our efforts and your efforts to arrive at this point in your life. We are glad we had you.

God bless and keep you until I may hold you in my arms again and as I started out to say - Happy 21st Birthday son.