Trumbull – A Letter From A Father To His Son – March 17, 1940

In yesterday’s post, Grandpa ended with an introduction to this post. He wrote:

I suppose this letter will reach you before your birthday and that being the case, I wonder if I can begin to get across to you just how a father feels about birthday greetings to his oldest boy so far away that he has not seen for so many months. Have you ever run across something in print that seems to say in the masterly way something that you have felt but seemed to lack the ability to express in words? Some time ago I ran across a thing of this sort – a letter from a father to his son, and if I may, I will let this sort of substitute for some of the things one would like to say himself if he had the gift of expression.


My boy:

Yesterday a man talked to me about a father who wrote an entire History of Mankind in order to guide his son on his march through life. There must be thousands of ways which the fathers of the world take to bring to their sons the wisdom and the truth which they want them to feel and to understand.

I too, my boy, have felt this urge. From the first day you came into the world, life took on a richer meaning. There was something more to live for — to fight for. Men thought that I was after dollars. How little they knew! Why I would rather earn one honest hour of your faith and your trust then decades of the world’s pomp and glory.

In every waking minute of my life there is one great urge. That you shall know me — not as other men think they know me; not as a neighbor, nor even as a husband. Each of these is a different world. In these other worlds even good men must be something other than their real selves. Fathers take on masks. There is so much they want to be and yet dare not be — so much they want to say and yet dare not say.

But in your world, here, surely, a father may be real. Here he may grope forward. Here he may reach out for his boy to hold him, to touch you, to talk to him. Time and again how I have hungered for this. I wanted to tell you the truth about life as I have come to know it. Time and again, alone in the sacred recesses of my heart I have carved words for you.

Carefully, earnestly, sacredly I have carved them, and yet when I came to speak them they were not the words I wanted to say. The sacredness was gone from them. They were dull and lifeless. A wall seemed to come between us — a wall created by a greater power than yours or mine, and it seems to say:

“Yes. You want to be a part of your boy — a limb of his limbs; to speak for him; to fight for him; to take for yourself the blows which the world is waiting to aim at him. But no, it is not to be. Alone he must fall and creep and climb and bleed and hunger. Alone, even as you did — even as he learned to crawl and walk — by his own desperate sorrows, by the crashing of his own dreams, by the leap of ambition when it fires him, and by the flames of defeat when they scorch him – out of these he must learn.”

Yet, perhaps, this is as it should be.

Listen my boy. I cannot write you a History of Mankind. I cannot pour out tomes of wisdom and reason; but this much I can do, this much I can say: March out on life. Live your own life in your own way — according to the truth as you see it — not as other men do. According to the dreams YOU dream, not those other men dream. March out on life. Come to grips with it. Seek out your birthright and fight for it. A thousand men will come to talk of fear and defeat and failure. A thousand others will frighten you by the futility, the emptiness, the miserable emptiness of their lives. A thousand lies will seek to deafen the song of courage and truth in your ears. But go on — go on and strive and endeavor to find your dreams and your yearnings that I sought for in my own life.


On Wednesday, a letter, written in Spanish, from Dan to Lad, on Thursday, a letter from Grandma Peabody and on Friday, an Easter letter from Grandpa.

Judy Guion


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