Dear Dad,

An open letter on Father's Day

Dear Dad,

Happy Fathers’ Day.  The words on the Hallmark card I gave you today weren’t mine.  I have a recurring fear that when I finally find my words for you, I’ll be weeping over a tombstone and delivering them inaudibly over muffled tears.  In this fear, some of the tears are because I miss you and the others because I missed you.  I missed the opportunity to give you my words and instead I gave you a three-pack of Hanes T-shirts for Christmas.

“I love you, Dad.”

Not good enough.  I love Mom.  I love my wife.  I love my brother and sister.  I love my dogs, and I love football.

“Thank you for being a great Dad.”

Nope.  Every Dad hears those words.

I might have to dig a little bit.

In kindergarten, I had a father that never called.  The silent telephone never bothered me, because I didn’t know what a Dad was.

In third-grade,  you married Mom.  God smiled upon me that day, but at that age, I thought God always smiled.

In fifth-grade, Mrs. Vandervelt had us draw a picture of our hero and write a few sentences about him.  I drew a picture of Don Mattingly because I didn’t understand what a hero was.

In eighth grade, you and Mom threw me a graduation party.  When the guests left and the house was cleaned up, you sat me down and poured me a beer.  Just you and me, splitting a beer at the kitchen table. The moment was lost on me because I didn’t yet understand that’s all life gives us – moments.

In tenth grade,  you grounded me for deceiving you.  I was angry because I didn’t understand what character was.

After twelfth grade, I left home for college.  I thought this made me a “man”

A lot has changed and much has remained the same since then.  I have no regrets but many battle scars.  If I knew then what I know now:

  • I would have wept with joy when you married Mom because that was the day that my future-self became a possibility.  I could never have become “me” without “you”
  • I would have sketched a picture of you.  When God wasn’t smiling, life had me on the ropes, and darkness consumed me, I drew from your spirit to fight back to the light.  Only in our darkest hours do we know who our heroes are.  You are mine.
  • I would have asked for another beer.  When life hands you moments like that one, you do whatever you can to extend them.
  • I would have thanked you for grounding me.  I am a man of character because you refused to let me be otherwise.
  • When I left home, I would have thanked you, in advance.  I didn’t yet know hardship, pain, or suffering.  I didn’t yet understand compassion, charity, or humanity.  I didn’t yet tangle with disappointment, humility, or grief.  In time, each made my acquaintance.  By the time I understood what you had done for me, I lost the ability to communicate deeper than Hallmark would allow for.  You prepared me to handle these encounters like a “man” and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, Dad.  I could never have become me without you.

Happy Fathers’ Day.


Your Son

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