I wrote my father about a year ago to ask him some questions about the economy, government policies, etc. I'd never really talked to him about these things as I was growing up, although he was involved in a family business during that time, and has since become a business manager and economics teacher at a small boarding school. But being on my own, working for a newspaper, I started to have questions about these things, and suddenly my father's expertise seemed quite valuable.
The letter my father wrote back knocked me off my feet. He answered my questions, but in the course of it he said something which I never would have expected. He said: ''Until God becomes more important in everyone's life, the system of free enterprise for all is still the best. Not the final answer but until a government of God prevails, so much better than government by a few.''
My father and I had never said two words to each other about religion. He had allowed my mother to bring us up (my three brothers and me) the way she felt best. He would go to church with us on Thanksgiving, but that was the extent of it. I never even asked my father if he believed in God. I just knew he was good, honest, direct, and loving.
So when he mentioned God in his letter, I was moved to tears. It shows how little we can know about a person, as the saying goes. Yet even though this was nothing my father and I ever spoke about, as I think of it now, I can see that his belief in God is part of his ''rootedness,'' part of the steadiness and reliability which I have always sensed in him.
When I was small, my family often went to the beach during the summer for a few weeks. My father would come down on weekends. It was one of the few times when we saw him wearing something besides a business suit. Instead he would wear shorts and a T-shirt. Sometimes we'd go out into the waves together. When it got too deep for me, he would sweep me up in his arms and we'd move forward toward the horizon. We didn't talk much, but I clung to him as the water lapped against us.
Much later, after a particularly trying year at college which left me a bit disillusioned, I made some sort of cynical remark about life, or my fellow man, and my father looked up at me and said: ''I don't like to hear you talk like that!'' I felt both the rebuke and the gentle concern for me that were in that remark.
I also remember our family - my father, mother and three brothers - going to sports games: baseball, basketball, hockey. My father drove smoothly, calmly, his arm resting on the window ledge. I could see just the back of his neck and his arm as we maneuvered through traffic.
We were quiet in the car, except for the crackly, familiar voice of the warm-up commentator. Once at the game, we all joined in the cheering, especially the chorus of ''Charge!'' after the electronic bugle calls. We chomped on peanuts, gobbled hot dogs, washed them down with soft drinks, and waited in vain for a baseball to come sailing our way.
The ride home was quiet, too, after the initial after-game joys and frustrations were discussed. Squeezed in between my two older brothers in the back seat, I would drift off to sleep, the wind wafting in gently through my father's open window. I would wake up slightly after we turned off the freeway, then try to figure out where we were by the turns of the car. Turning onto Glenarm, then left onto El Molino - I got lost after that in the turns and curves of Arden Road.
But as we got closer to home, I knew just where we were, waiting, half-asleep , for the slight scrape as we turned into our driveway. I wouldn't open my eyes, though, because the best part of the evening was yet to come. My father would bring the car to a slow stop, my brothers would clamber out, and I would stay where I was, very still, till my father came around to the back door and lifted me out.
His arms encircled me then as they did when we drifted in the ocean together. He carried me through the back yard, into the house, up the stairs into my bedroom, and there he settled me softly down onto my bed.
My father may never have talked with me about religion, but he lives a life of love, of faith in good. What he wrote to me should not have surprised me at all.