Long have I wondered what to write to you. Not because I don’t know what to say, but because I’m still, even at this moment unsure how to express it. Some things are felt so deeply that any combination of words still just touch the fringe of a true explanation. There’s no way to say how deeply I love you, a love that is immediate, inherently biological, and truly human; the love a daughter has for her father that is fostered over the years into an unbreakable mix of unwavering respect, safety, gratitude, shared humor, experiences, grief at the death of loved ones, and mutual exasperation with others at times, and each other at times. How do you express that in any language? The simple joy of getting to sit next to you at dinner. How much even that means; how all those small simple gestures and moments add up.
Last summer, before I came home, when for me things were the worst of the worst I was talking to mom on the phone while sitting on the porch steps. Before she hung up she gave you the phone and you said the simplest words that left me bawling. “Hi baby, it’s daddy, I love you.” Even now tears run down my cheeks at how much those simple words meant to me. Of course they are meaningful all the time, but particularly in that moment. How safe, how loved, and how comforting it was. I was convinced I had let you down, that I had failed you in some way by failing myself. I had created an irrational sense of crushing guilt for laying a broken version of myself at your and moms feet, for the pain and worry I caused you when my façade of healthiness was gone. Those words erased that.
Ultimately, my point is that you saved me yet again.
I don’t mean that in a figurative sense. What I mean is you gave my soul the shoring up it needed to keep moving forward. The best analogy I can think of is one of those “trust building tests”, where a group of people stand behind you, arms intertwined while you fall backward with your eyes closed, hoping they’ll catch you. I hate those damn things. I hated it last summer, when I fell backwards with my eyes closed to you. But I didn’t hope you’d catch me, I knew you would. It broke my heart to do it, to have to, to put that on you; and while I never want to do it again, I’m so glad I did, that I was able to. I must follow by saying I’m sorry. I hope you know how grateful I am to have been blessed with you, a father that I’ve never once wondered if you would catch me and fold me back into your heart.
This is really hard to write.
I am so grateful. For you. For our car rides together. Our chats over a beer. Our shared laughter. That even though some of my actions and thoughts make no sense to you, but you accept them anyways, with a wide variety of facial expressions. You don’t question that I need to go to bed early, or you ask if I’m having tea tonight. More simple things that mean the world to me. I love that I can see you in myself, in what I look like and what I think like.
Along with grateful, I am appreciative. The best distinction I found between the two was this; “That gratitude is the base from which appreciation grows and flourish, if we’re paying attention. That is, we can be grateful for something in our lives without really appreciating it.” Well, I am both, and always have been. I would like to address directly my appreciation for your financial support, for this I feel I have an especially difficult time demonstrating and voicing. Most likely because the things you feel the most shameful about are the hardest to address. I didn’t and still don’t know how to thank you for the continuous financial support you provided in my young adult and adult life. From college tuition, to the $50 a week for groceries, new windshield wipers, to the past 10 months. Know that I remember it all, and appreciate every cent, and never just expect it.
I realize that I am addressing many recent events, because I feel I need to, and truly want to. Re-voicing earlier words, I have spent a long time wondering how to convey my love, appreciation, pride, and respect in the same ratio that I experience it, and speak about you with.
You have made such an incredible impact on my life, on who I am, how I treat people, and how I see the world.
I remember even as a child when you would sign cards with a heart and peace sign. When you would wake me up for school, but we were both tired so you would lie down in my bed, fall asleep and then we would both be late. How you would walk to the last hill out of the neighborhood in the cold and dark to drive my car out because I was a terribly new driver. Wrestling in the hallway. Hanging out on the beach. Hugs after swim meets. Seeing you cheering at rugby games. When you wrote me a letter about my relationship with Ben and wishing for my happiness and left it on my pillow. Watching you with Mo and baby Jayden when they stayed with us for a week. I remember walking down the road at the lake house as a child and you showing me a sassafras tree. Really enjoying hunting simply because it was something we always did together. There is an especially vivid moment in my mind of when I went to the hunting cabin with you and the guys. We got up early one morning, and it was relatively warm. When we got settled into our area in the woods you said you may fall asleep, and to wake you up if I saw anything. Fall asleep you did; but I made the decision not to wake you up if I saw anything because I was so happy in that peaceful moment with you. All these moments, large and small that molded and tempered our relationship; when I start thinking about them they pour out of history and back into my head. They are countless and timeless. I am so proud to be your daughter, to call you my father, to point you out to people and say, “That’s my dad.”
I came across a quote recently that stopped my mind in its tracks. “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” Even when I lost the belief in myself for the first time; you would say small things in passing, or in the midst of a conversation that were not meaningful to you, because it was what you had been saying for years, it was nothing new. But all of a sudden I realized what it means to be believed in. I realized how much you believe in me; how long you’ve believed in me. Honestly papa, if you believe in me, then I believe in me. I realize I’ve never heard you say, there’s no way you can do that. Or, that’s useless to try. Or even, “Don’t”. Even when you’ve doubted, you kept it to yourself while I shot like a rocket, first across the state, then across the country to throw myself into a whole new unknown. When I got lost in that unknown, you just waited, then asked where I would shoot off to next. You’ve never asked when I will stop. Thank you.
Now, I realize that this letter is very emotional and possibly disjointed. Unlike how you think about yourself, I don’t believe you are lacking in emotional skill or understanding. Look at who you’re surrounded by, who you’ve chosen to surround yourself with; the most passionate and emotional people for friends and family. You’re not lacking in the understanding, you’re the pillar. Our constant. It’s a huge burden that you bear, one that life seemingly chose for you at a young age out of circumstance which you grew into, but you bear it with such grace and patience. Your kindness is exceeding and meaningful. Quiet and strong, not the brash sympathetic voice I, Sal, and Mom have. Thank god. I love you, papa. Someone summed up perfectly what I would like to leave you with and identify with impeccably,
“I am not ashamed to say that no man I ever met was my father’s equal, and I never loved any other man as much.”