Dear Dad, luv Judy

My Dad in his World War II Army photo
My Dad in his World War II Army photo

By Judy Berman

Flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder are comforting sounds to me. I sleep easily thru a storm, and I have my Dad to thank for that.

It’s one of many things he wrote about when he began writing to me after my Mom died.

His letters covered cautionary tales on my decision to become a teacher, insights about zoning in the Nevada desert and humorous asides. As I reread them, I recall a Greek diner owner once telling me, “No matter how old you get, you’ll still be your parents’ little girl.” So true.

So, electrical storms don’t faze me. Here’s why:

As a kid, when lightning crashed all around, Dad taught me to look at nature’s light show with the cool demeanor of a mathematician in a lab. I’d peer out over the couch into the night sky and gauge how far away it was.

All grown, many years later, I’m reading a book by Patricia Polacco to my grandchildren. The author explains how her grandmother figured the speed of sound. I quickly jot off a note to Dad for his opinion. Dad wrote back that Polacco’s grandmother was way off in her calculations in counting the time between sightings of lightning and the sounds of thunder.

“A rough figure is 1,000 feet per second. So 5 seconds would be a mile. That’s what we did when you were a kid,” he responded.

Dad watching my brother, Hank, play chess.
Dad watching my brother, Hank, play chess.

Whether we were buying a car or switching jobs, Dad was there to offer his advice or share his experiences.

On education, Dad’s view on our schools is echoed by many today. He didn’t think the schools paid enough to its school resource officers or to its teachers.

“The pay is not high enough to attract former metro cops. The same problem applies to teachers. The salaries offered will not allow teachers to buy decent housing,” Dad wrote.

“I’m afraid your world and that of your students are very far apart.”

How true. In this ever-changing world, that is the one constant. Nothing remains the same – except the low pay.

His take on the lighter side of life was a welcome diversion. Even when he was being corny, he was the master of delivery and timing. Mom would gently scold us: “Now, stop laughing. You’ll only encourage him.” Then, she’d turn her head away from us because she was laughing, too.

Once, I wrote Dad asking how the joke went about a worker stealing wheelbarrows. He, ever the skilled raconteur, spun out the following tale.

This “reminds me of a guy who was working at the atomic test site. These atomic blasts involve a good deal of earth-moving equipment before and after the shot.

“In the 1960s, some people did their own home-building, and the lot had to be cleared by a bulldozer. This guy decided to earn extra by clearing lots on the weekend. To do that, he needed a bulldozer.

“He decided to steal one from the test site. Since the test site is very remote, he managed to sneak a trailer in, load it, and haul it home. With so much equipment up there, they didn’t even miss it.

“Things were going beautifully until the hydraulic system failed. So he had another brilliant idea. He would sneak it back on the test site, let them repair it, and then steal it again.

“They caught him when he was bringing it back.”

And Dad had a postscript to my query: “Never precede a joke with an explanation.”

The mailbox no longer holds the appeal for me it once did. My Dad’s letters stopped in 2011, shortly before his passing.

To all Dads on Sunday, June 16th, whether by birth, step, adopted, mentor, Big Brother … Happy Father’s Day. Give yours an extra hug from me.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or
earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original

Main photo: My Dad, Joseph H. Fiet III, in the Army during World War II

Photo: My Dad watching my brother, Hank, play chess

    1. Thanks, Sue. I always thought Dad was handsome. When you get a chance, check out the one I wrote for my Mom on Mothers Day in May. Some say I look like her, too. I guess I’m just a happy blend of my folks. 🙂

      1. Will do, Judy!

        I was recently given a set of old family photos, including my father, grandparents and great grandparents. It is lovely to have them. x

        note from earthrider to Sue Vincent:
        I love our old family photos, too. Recently, my Aunt Sue sent me a bunch of photos – I loved the one of my Grammy (my Mom’s mom) when she was young. I’d never seen that before. You’re right. These are lovely to look at and to have.

  1. Great story Mom. I miss Granddad and all his funny tales and the history stories he would tell. He and Grammie were so good at storytelling, oh how I envy those in heaven who get to hear them now.
    Love you!

  2. Judy, your dad was awesome. He’s was a great example of how a dad ought to be. So I tip my baseball cap to him. And to you, for writing such a great tribute about him…I think I would have really liked him. x

    1. Deb, I’m sure you would have loved meeting and knowing my Dad. I think of all the things that our parents can give us: sharing their time with us is the most precious.
      Thanks for the compliment.

  3. Oh, Judy, I loved this, just as I loved the one for Mothers Day! You are a wonderful blend of both of your parents’; they each taught you very different but equally important things. Delightful perspective about getting over your fear of lightning.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Marilyn. I so enjoy the stories you share about your Mom and the things you’ve learned from her. Your stories make me nostalgic for those days spent with my folks.

      I apologize to you, Marilyn, and to everyone else for not writing sooner. We just returned from a vacation with our family – post to follow.

  4. This post–and the lovely post about your mother–are wonderful tributes to both of your parents. You’re a beautiful combination of your mom and dad, and I loved the lesson on lightning, and as a 30year veteran teacher, I agree with him that teachers aren’t paid enough! Your writing shines in these posts.

    1. Dad’s comment just goes to show you that times haven’t changed all that much. He also was a teacher – math – at a technical school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after WWII.

      Thanks for the compliment, Marilyn.

  5. It’s interesting what you said about your dad teaching you how far away the lightening was, I can remember my dad telling me about that too, and also my brother teaching me how to count, doing his mathematical assessments – possibly all wrong, but or it sounded impressive to a six year old!! 🙂

    But unlike you, I still feel a little anxious when a thunderstorm arrives, and very worried if I am outside when one occurs. I think it would be very difficult for anyone to convince me that I don’t need to be anxious about them at all, because I’ve experienced some real evidence of some nasty thunderstorms! I know that must sound ridiculous when you know that I live in England – it’s not known for it’s dangerous thunderstorms, but it depends where you live. From the age of six to twenty one, I lived in a village that was on a fairly steep hill, and we seemed to be hit with thunder storms that were very sudden, they must have reached us first being so high up. So one minute it would be quiet the next there would be an enormous bang like a huge bomb going off! Used to really terrify some people – especially me! 😯 I had that happen one afternoon when I was a teenager, peacefully sitting on the living room floor playing an Atari video game – and suddenly there was a giant bang and the window near the television just lit up bright white. Strangely no damage was done to the house, but a it did a lot of damage to me mentally! There is something ultra alarming about very loud bangs when you get no warning beforehand!

    And a couple of years before that, my dad had been trying to fix something on his car on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It clouded over and he felt there might about to be a storm possibly with some heavy rain. He came in for some lunch – and yes, there was a thunderstorm for about 20 minutes. When it was all cleared up he returned to his car to find to his horror a tool that he had been using that he left on the ground near to the car, had a clean break in it right across the middle. I can’t remember what kind of tool it was, but it was a solid 2 inches thick! My dad wasn’t frightened of thunderstorms, but that did alarm him a bit, and he told that story for many years!

    Where I live now is not on high ground, so thunderstorms are a lot more normal – but with my past experience in my mind, I find it very difficult not to be a little nervous!! 🙂

    I enjoyed reading about your dad, he sounded like he had a similar character to mine! He was always on hand for advice, and was prone to being corny too! I didn’t always appreciate that, certainly in the teenage years (I was a bit grumpy sometimes) and didn’t always find what he was joking about a laughing matter – pity really! I appreciated him much more when I was older, he knew he was loved! 🙂

    Mothers and Fathers days almost pass me by now, as I don’t have either parent any more. Having a blog and reading posts like yours here, is just about my only reminder that it’s coming up! And it’s interesting that Father Day in the US is the same date as the UK. But Mothers Day is always a few months apart – ours is always in March! 😀

    1. Your experiences certainly would make me shudder any time there is a thunderstorm, Suzy. I don’t want to mislead you. I do have a healthy respect for thunderstorms and lightning – Florida, until recently, was the lightning capital of the world. At one time, I lived one block from a church bell tower in Syracuse, New York that was hit by lightning – and it did significant damage to the bell and belfry. It had to be replaced.

      My Mom passed in 2001, and my Dad passed in 2011. I do wish we had more time together, but I’m certainly grateful for the time we had.

  6. A wonderful tribute to your amazing dad. A man of great wisdom and full of love for his family. Beautiful post. Wishing all the fathers in your family a wonderful Father’s Day.

    1. Thank you for your comments. My Dad is certainly missed.I hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day, Island Traveler. When I see the photos and posts you have, I know that your son will have many amazing memories as he grows older.

  7. I loved reading about your dad and seeing the photos of him. My dad had such a dry sense of humor, very cornball too. How great that you and your dad exchanged letters for so long! I actually wrote my dad one last letter when I was out in college on the west coast and it was the last communication we had before he died. I’m so happy I wrote it.

    1. I think your Dad and mine would have gotten along very well, Darla. I’m glad you had a chance to write that letter to your Dad. It’s the things we think about doing – and never do – that we regret the most.

      Dad didn’t start writing to me until after my Mom passed in 2001. A few years earlier, as a joke, he wrote a short note on a Christmas gift tag to address my complaints that he never wrote. I’m sure if I search around, I’d find it somewhere. Still that memory is a treasure. 🙂

  8. Why? Why is it that every guy in his WWII army uniform looks handsome and about a million times more honest and real than guys you see walkin’ around today?? True for my dad as well, and not an encouraging trend–!!

    Absolutely superb tribute, Judy. I almost feel like I knew your dad, and I’d like to shake his hand. Wonderful photo of him providing a quiet supportive presence for your brother, too.

    I remember that old 5 second rule for lightning. Haven’t thought about it in years! Yup, we always used to count. And if you heard a tremendous crash before you could say “one,” you dove under the bed!! : P

    Wonderful post, my friend! : )

    P.S. Loved the bulldozer story as well!

    1. I agree, Mark. Those WWII Army guys sure cornered the market on dashing and handsome. I share your nostalgia for the good old days.

      Thank you for the compliment. I think you would have liked my Dad and vice-versa. He was quite the entertainer and very sharp. Dad might have told the same stories over and over again, but I never got tired of hearing them.

  9. A beautiful tribute to your dad, Judy. I believe the advice and experiences fathers shares with their children are really precious. I am sure you must have inherited many good qualities from him. Thanks a lot for sharing your personal thoughts. Really nice post!!

    1. Thank you, Arindam. My Dad was great at math and music (playing the guitar). The closest I come to that is being fairly logical and loving music. Where Dad and I might be closest is in making puns and in wordplay … and spinning a yarn – although he was far better at that than me. Like I tell my kids … surely, you must have inherited some of my GOOD traits. 🙂

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