Happy Father’s Day.
I know this past year has looked different for us. Our hearts are heavy with the burdens of life during a pandemic, and we are both navigating different seasons of change. We are noticing our differences more acutely, and reacting harshly instead of responding with love. Despite all of this, on Father’s Day, I need to call you out for the incredible man you’ve shown yourself to be. In my 31 years, my gratitude for the gift of calling you my Father has grown boundlessly.
From my very first breath, I gave you more than you bargained for.
I was your fourth child, and I demanded an early entrance. I came into this world a mere 2lbs, and with a heart defect. You faced more obstacles than I could even fathom in my first year of life. Yet you kept a roof over our heads, you supported my 3 older siblings in their varying stages of life, and you kept us fed. All of this while shouldering the mounting medical bills and the constant terror of my medical fragility. All of this while you maintained a successful career as an engineer. All of this despite my mother not being the partner you needed due to her own significant struggle with chronic illness.
Once I was out of the woods medically, you provided an environment for me to thrive. Soon I was walking, and going to daycare with my brother. Then, another curveball. It was discovered I was hard of hearing. You fought for my care and services. Again, I thrived. Through all of this, I felt loved and cared for. You gave me the very best foundation for life that a little girl could have.
When I was 8, our world stopped turning. Mom passed away. I will forever be amazed at the strength, courage, and vulnerability you showed during the hardest time of my life.
You loved me, you provided me a safe space to grieve, and you protected me. You sought support for me, and even when it didn’t work, you kept trying.
My life was full. I played any sports I wanted and when I wasn’t busy playing with my brother, I had playdates and Girl Scouts. When my Girl Scout troop needed a leader, you stepped up. Without shame, you put in the work to give me and 8 other little girls an opportunity we would’ve otherwise missed out on. When I was given the opportunity to play for two hockey teams, you made it happen. You amassed a small village of hockey moms who helped with rides and care when schedules unavoidably conflicted (either with your work or my brother’s hockey.) When you didn’t know how to sew my nameplate on my hockey jersey, you didn’t give up. You asked a hockey mom to teach you. Not only did I not feel left out, I felt even more special for the extra effort you put in. I’ll also never forget our Monday night mountain bike races at Catamount. The special summer routine of getting picked up from daycare, grabbing a bag of bagels then watching you race is something I’ll always cherish.
When you were ready to start dating again, you kept me safe. You helped me build a new relationship with a woman we both grew to love. The day she left, I saw your broken heart. I wanted so badly to hate her, but you taught me forgiveness. You relieved me of that burden and despite your pain, you forged the path forward for our family.
Ultimately, you met the woman who would become my stepmom. I know I didn’t make it easy for her to stick around, but I’m glad she did. You deserved a partner to come alongside you, love you, and encourage you through the trials and tribulations of single parenthood.
My teen years were hell for both of us. Despite everything I put you through, you NEVER gave up on me. Every day, not just Father’s Day, I am grateful for your love and support when I was my least lovable.
Through my mental health diagnosis, dozens of crisis interventions, hospitalizations, medications, and more, you showed up and you fought for me. You fought for my life when I couldn’t. Every single day. You surrounded me with a village of people I could turn to when I needed help. Eventually, your words started getting through to me. Your love, your encouragement, your perspective, and mostly, your belief that I would be ok.
My early adulthood years were also rough. Some people would say you were unloving for the way you chose to support me. But I found it to be exactly the opposite. You saw something I couldn’t. And you knew I wouldn’t see my own strength until I relied on myself.
Your loving support of my independence is what led me to thrive.
I’m not going to pretend for one second that I fully understand your journey. But I will say my gratitude for your sacrifices grows daily and I am grateful for you every day, not just on Father’s Day. As I’ve come into my own as a parent, I am blown away by the example you’ve set. Your love runs deep in the core of my being. I am so proud of the man that you are, faults and all. I appreciate every iota of effort you put into being the best father you could be, on Father’s Day, and every other day, even if it doesn’t always seem so.
Thank you, Dad, for raising me. You stepped up when you had a million chances to step out. You chose me, over and over again. You show up during the best moments of my life, and the darkest. You are my constant and my anchor.