The first and only letter I ever wrote to you was right before I turned 16.
I was so mad at you I couldn’t speak. Since learning my ABC’s as a toddler, I’d been fascinated with reading and writing, so I imagine after our fight you weren’t surprised to receive a hand-written letter filled with adolescent rage.
I lied. I lied big and I lied bad. It was, essentially, your one and only rule for me growing up.
“Do not lie. Your word is your integrity. The content of your character will be what carries you through this world. Nobody trusts a liar.”
And you were right… but to 15-year-old Angela it was only a lie if you got caught, right?
My best friend and I went to a college nearby for a concert with every intention of staying overnight. But I called you and told you it was a last-minute thing. I said that her mom had an emergency and couldn’t pick us up. I said we were staying with her cousin who was a student there. You believed me.
I can thank my little sister for ratting me out. I had my AIM away message set that I would be: at college for the night 😉 . She read it and unwittingly asked you and mom about it.
I came home that Sunday morning after a night of partying with college kids, hungover and heady with the sense I had pulled the wool over your eyes. I hadn’t. You were SO mad and disappointed in me, rightly so, but it was a football Sunday and you had also been drinking. What would have normally been a calm yet stern grounding turned into a slightly slurred shoutfest at one another. I was upset about the fight. I was more upset that concurrent with the grounding I also wouldn’t be allowed to get my learner’s permit on my 16th birthday.
I was furious. I ran up to my room, clutched my pillow, and sobbed my heart out for a while. Then, I grabbed a notebook and pen and wrote you a letter, angry tears dotting the blue lined paper and smudging the ink in spots. I don’t remember the exact details of what I wrote. It was along the lines of the punishment does not fit the crime! I have been an outstanding daughter up until this point, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while working weekends at my aunt and uncle’s restaurant, washing nasty pancake syrup off of dishes so that you didn’t have to bankroll any whimsical teenage purchases.
The letter concluded with, “If you want a bad daughter, I will GIVE you a bad daughter.” This I remember vividly.
I left it on the kitchen table for you that Monday morning and caught the bus to school.
You wrote back to me. A compassionate letter, but reaffirming my punishment and grounding. What I do remember most, is that you STILL outlined how proud of me you were and how much you loved me. You always did.
Eleven and a half years later, I am writing a second letter to you. This letter. One we too often never take the time to write as adults.
Dad, you are the single most amazing father, husband and man that I know on this earth. I will never be able to express my gratitude for all you have done and continue to do for me.
I feel your love and influence on my life every day. Everyone who knows and cares about me is unwittingly grateful for how you raised me.
You are the hardest working, most disciplined and humble man I know. The man who read to me and bought me all the books, who fostered my love of music, bought my violin and drove me an hour away from home for symphony rehearsals every Saturday for YEARS. As the owner of a small business in our hometown, your reputation for honesty and excellence have people all over the area coming to you for help.
You are measured, thoughtful and hilarious. You have been a faithful and dedicated husband to Mom for almost 30 years. You have been a shining beacon of a lighthouse to me, grounding and guiding me through all of my triumphs and tribulations for 27 years.
Your recent achievement of healthy eating, weight loss, giving up drinking and chewing tobacco goes to show that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
I don’t know if men my age exist as steadfast as you in this world, but I hope to someday marry someone who loves me half as well as you do.
My goal is that he too will be the kind of father who won’t let his daughter lie to him. Who will nurture and support her passions, and quietly sit back and smile while she shines brightly on the world’s stage.
And for all of my fellow strong women who had strong fathers.
Who had a steadfast and dedicated dad that did everything in his power to show up and stand up. To be the best man he could be so that he could raise you to be the best woman you can be – I have a message for your amazing fathers as well. From all of us.
Thank you, thank you, thank you– from the bottom of our hearts.
I know we’ve messed up more than once over the years. We’ve lied, fought and we’ve failed….and perhaps even wrote a few strongly-worded disgruntled letters afterward.
But we’ve had you to wisely counsel us through our mistakes and mishaps.
You taught us how to read, whistle, and tie our shoes. You’ve picked us up off the ground when we fell learning to ride a bike and kissed our every cut and scrape.
You were the person cheering loudest (and most embarrassingly) for us at our college graduations. You intimidated every prom date with your stern “have her home by 11, or else.”
You’ve been our shoulders to cry on when people and places and life have wreaked havoc our hearts. You’ve helped to make us laugh through those tears. You’ve been the strongest example of what true love looks like and how we deserve to be treated.
And your patience, strength and devotion is not lost on us. It remains in our hearts forever, leading us through all we do in life. Propelling us to new heights. Igniting fierce courage and integrity in our souls. There are not enough words, or letters, in the world to thank you for that. But thank you.
Dad, Happy Father’s Day. I love you. So much.
And now, if you want a GREAT daughter, I’ll give you one.
Because that’s exactly who you raised me to be.