I've been writing the following letter to my father for months now if not longer. I've wanted to tell him what he means to me for longer than I can remember, and today felt like the right time to do that, so this morning I gave him this letter and sat with him and my stepmother while he read it, D at my side:
June 18, 2006
It wasn’t enough for me to find you a suitable present for Father’s Day, I needed for you to have something more personal and meaningful from me today. This has been a long time coming and something I’ve meant for you to have for several years now, it’s just never felt like the right time. I realize that such a time doesn’t exist, and I of all people should know that the appropriate time to honor someone you love with your love is as soon as it occurs to you to do so.
I don’t really know the best way to explain my love, respect, and adoration for you, it is has many layers and I want to give justice to each one. I think perhaps the best way to explain it is to explain to you what I think of when I think of you, something I do much more often than you can imagine, and when I do, I feel overwhelmed at what you’ve given me. I’m a good man and a strong man, and an awful lot of good is done for others in my name and because of my influence. That would not be possible without the love, guidance, and influence of you, and when people ask me how I became the man I am I give you the credit you’ve earned as a man, as a father, and as someone they would have been lucky to be a part of. I wouldn’t be as patient and selfless a man as I am were it not for the examples you raised me with, I wouldn’t feel as strongly about my convictions and earning respect through actions as I do were it not for the things you have shown me.
It took me many years and much soul searching to understand it, but becoming a man and looking back on my life and on my childhood I’ve seen countless examples of your love and care for me, even when you felt the guilt of being a parent that wasn’t as directly involved as I know you would have liked to be. In my entire life, I’ve never met anyone whose strong work ethic can compare to yours, and I constantly remind myself of the sacrifices you have made throughout our lives and the backbreaking work you did for your family. I am fully aware of the hurt, pain, and suffering you will never admit to enduring in your unhappiness all of those years when I was younger, but I understand it now and I cannot even begin to thank you enough for casting that all aside in order to provide such a great home and great life for me. I am ashamed of myself to this day for the many ways I was ungrateful as a child and as a teenager, and barely a day goes by that I don’t think about that and the fact that I have never ever properly thanked you for doing everything you knew how to do so I could always have more advantages. If I live to be a thousand years old, I will never forgive myself for ever making you think or feel that anything you did was not good enough, because I know with no question in my mind that you are an exceptional man and an exceptional father and you’ve done everything you thought was right and in my best interests for my entire life, everything you possibly could have done and I am deeply sorry if you have ever felt less than that. If there is any way at all I can make amends for it, I promise I will try.
I know what kind of life you’ve come from, and I know how disappointed and hurt you were when you had to tell me that you and Mama were divorcing and that the choice was mine as to who I wanted to live with. I can barely imagine how heartbreaking it had to be to explain such a thing to your youngest child, especially considering the hopelessness of that situation and time and how long you fought to keep it from happening so I would never have to go through what you went through. I know what you wanted for me, what you hoped for me, and what you tried so hard to lead me to – despite my resistance and my own personal choices – and even though I didn’t turn out in the ways you might have wished for me to, the lessons and the strength DID find their home in me and I cannot thank you enough for it.
I see in myself so many good things that are only there as a result of you and all you’ve given and shown me, and it makes me feel extraordinary and lucky that you took the time. Because of your teachings I can fix almost anything if it breaks and save the money it would take to hire someone. Because of what you’ve shown it is almost impossible to take advantage of me. By your example, I strive for fairness and try as hard as I can to understand where others are coming from, even when I could not disagree more. It is because of you that I know what it means to make a sacrifice and work to prove your love when you know no other way to show it, because at least it means declaring how you feel instead of doing nothing.
It has been difficult for you and I as people, being so very different and taking such different paths, to understand one another. For many years we tiptoed around each other to maintain a mutual respect for one another – but there has never been a time in my life when I didn’t know how much you loved me and what lengths you would go for me, what you would do if you had to in order to prove it, and prove it you have – many times over.
I think all little boys who are lucky enough to have an active Father in their lives come to view them as heroic in one respect or another, but that only comes when the Father pays enough attention to what their sons need from them, especially the need they have to feel loved, adored, appreciated, honored, protected and safe. It is because of this that you are not just my father, you’re my Daddy. I’ve called you that since I was a child, and no matter how old I get, that is who you will always be to me. You are due nothing but the highest respect and honor I can pay, and if I have failed in conveying that the fault is mine and mine alone.
So on this Father’s Day, finally, I credit and thank you, Daddy – with all of the love, honor, and gratitude I can possibly fathom. I thank you for everything you’ve shown, done, given, taught, challenged and tasked me with to be the man I’ve grown to be, to say nothing of putting up with me and supporting me even when I’ve made bad choices and you didn’t have to. I hope you are proud of the work you’ve done as both a father and a man to show me what I needed to know about life, because it is a living thing and however long it took me, I finally got it. I love you more than I could ever show in a lifetime, but we’re both still young and I’m an optimist.
Happy Daddy’s Day!
While he read it, I noticed his lower lip quivering which always means that he's fighting back the urge to break down and cry. I know it well, because I do the same thing. After reading it, his eyes were brimming with tears and he thanked me for writing it, told me how much it meant to him, and said he would keep it forever. I thanked my stepmother and explained how much I love her as well and how grateful I am for the love and joy she's brought to my Daddy's life, because he was so miserably unhappy and lonely for years before her. He stood up to hug me, tried to speak, but his voice cracked and all he could manage was a whisper, telling me again how thankful he was and how he loved me. He hugged me tightly for a long time, and it was possibly the best hug I've ever gotten from him.
I have never felt as close to or loved by my Daddy as I do today, and this has been the best Father's day ever.