For someone who was always fascinated by love, I never understood unconditional love. For someone who always dreamed of being a father, I never understood how one could adequately prepare to raise another human being. Then, you came into my life and changed everything.
In one way, I knew exactly what I was getting into; in another, I’m still not sure if I fully grasp the weight of my decision all these years later.
The once-paralyzing thought of failing as a father has been replaced by the idea of what my life would be like had you never been a part of it.
You are the most important decision I’ve ever made in my life, and you are the greatest thing that has ever happened to it.
You are not my daughter. You never have been, and you never will be. The reality is that we will likely never see each other again. None of that has ever stopped me from loving you.
None of that has ever rerouted my brain from thinking about you every single day. None of that has ever deterred my hope that your life without me turns out better than one I could ever provide for you.
Of all of the outlandish thoughts that run through my head on a given day, the most absurd is that we will be reunited. The hope, however small, that you will one day be a part of my world again outweighs any desire of mine to find romance or career success.
You don’t remember me anymore, and that’s okay. It’s understandable, and almost to be expected. Time can erase your memory, but it will never change the past.
You may not remember your first steps, but I do. You may not remember your first Christmas, but I do.
You may not remember shoving your face into your first birthday cake, but I do.
I was there for all of it, and I would love nothing more than to be there for the rest of your life. The reality is that it will likely never happen, and that’s okay. It’s understandable, and almost to be expected. It’s just something I have been forced to accept and learned to live with.
People told me that the pain would go away over time, but they were wrong. They told me that I would forget about you over time, but they were wrong. They told me that it was impossible to love another man’s child as if they were my own, but they were wrong.
It’s been three years since I’ve heard your voice; 173 weeks since I’ve heard your laugh; 1,216 days since I’ve held you in my arms. I’ve missed you every second of every one of them.
I have not cried since the day I had to leave you.
Truthfully, I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to inflict the same level of pain as having to say goodbye to you. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone is capable of even coming close. You have made me stronger than I ever thought possible, and for that I am eternally grateful.
My wish for your birthday is no different than the one I have for you every other day of the year: that you’re happy, healthy, and loved. I don’t know that there’s much more to ask for.
I love you, unconditionally, and that will never change.
You may never be my daughter, but you will always have my heart.
Happy birthday, beautiful.