Dad, did you know . . . I strove diligently to make good grades, run good races, victoriously win at everything I attempted, not for my own glory, but to see the smile of pride on your face? Your pride in me was infinitely better than any “A” grade, first-place medal, or blue ribbon I could have ever received. The first person I looked to for acknowledgment after each achievement . . . was you, Dad.
Dad, did you know . . . the way you loved my mother through the years—good times and bad, sickness and health, rich and poor—taught me how a true, selfless, loving relationship should be? I did not always get it right when I attempted a life partner, but I always knew, whether I lived it or not, what a true, loyal, committed and steady relationship should look like. I learned that from you.
Dad, did you know . . . that time you sat with me in my living room while my two babies were napping in their rooms upstairs and I was crying bitter tears of defeat while going through a devastating divorce, your few words, “I am sorry you are going through this,” and just simply being there was better than any therapy, medication, or church service I ever attended for relief? You just showed up . . .and stayed.
That was what I needed at that time, and I will never forget it.
Dad, did you know…when you started jogging in your mid-50s in efforts to coach me as I competed in high school track and cross-country, it was the biggest compliment I could receive? The fact you thought I was good enough to train humbled me and made me want to work harder to prove you right. You always believed in me—often more than I believed in myself. You taught me to believe in myself. It took a decade of losses and trauma, but after some healing and deep introspection, I think I finally see the me you saw long before I could. I can finally believe in myself because you always did.
Dad, did you know . . . every time I felt down, defeated, rejected, not good enough, just hearing you say “don’t quit” (your signature phrase), spurred me toward my second wind and ignited that deep down fighting spirit you planted in your little girl? I am a persistent, resilient, steadfast, enduring woman because you never let me quit. I love that about me . . . because of you.
Dad, did you know . . . even when I was a selfish jerk of a teenager and got mad at you for the times you told me no, I now realize why you did?
You were just trying to protect your little girl from situations for which you knew I was ill-equipped. I am so glad you said no. And I am sorry I made it tough for you to do so. I am thankful your protection of me was more important than my popularity toward you.
Dad, did you know . . . it’s not the milestones in my life that stand out—such as my baptism, high school or college graduation, getting married, or having babies? It was the everyday, routine example you provided of hard work, sacrificing time for your loved ones, simply showing up, listening, hugging, praying, and at times crying. Watching you work in the garden, shepherd people in our hometown church, visit the elderly shut-ins, bring my mom a treasured find from a garage sale (that she wasn’t particularly thrilled about). Those everyday, random examples of being a steadfast, loyal, committed man stand out to me. Your example is one of life’s greatest gifts to me.
Dad, did you know . . . seeing you with my two sons, your grandsons, makes my heart swell at least seven sizes? The way they look up to you and think you are a hero among men. I know that look. I had that look as a little girl. I still have that look as a grown woman.
There is no one on earth I would rather my boys seek to be like than my dad.
I see so much of you in them. Liam’s stubbornness, studiousness, and legalistic way of seeing the world. Waylan’s dry humor and love of the outdoors and hard work. They emulate you in so many ways. I could not be more proud of the young men they are becoming. I know it is in large part because of the role you daily play in their young lives.
Dad, did you know . . . I cannot always find the words to tell you how I feel? How proud I am to be your daughter. How thankful I am for the way you raised me. How hopeful I am you will see your grandsons grow up, get married, and have children of their own. I get all teary, my lips quiver, and words evade me. But Dad, you and I are so much alike, I just hope you know. Even when I do not say the things that are on my heart, I hope you know.
Please, Dad, please know my love for you surpasses the deepest ocean, furthest star, coldest arctic, hottest dessert. It is immeasurable. All the things you did for me you didn’t think I saw . . . I did. I still do. I always will.
Dad, you are my hero. My life coach. My encourager. My tough love talker. My truth-hurts therapist. My biggest fan and fierce protector.
Dad, all these things . . . I hope you know.