An Open Letter To The Dad Who Chose Me

Father carrying daughter on the beach
Father carrying daughter on the beach

To the Dad Who Chose Me,

I had a father before you and he was my world. And as hard as it is for people to believe, I was his world as well. You see, people often talk about the bad dads who leave their little girls, but no one talks about the good ones, and I wish they would have. I wish people would have said his name around me. Everyone in the family acted like he didn't exist, like he didn't happen. I know their silence was an attempt to shield me from the pain of his memory, but nothing could. I wanted to talk about him. I wanted to cry over him. I wanted someone to acknowledge that the pain was there whether his absence was openly acknowledged or not.

I use to wonder if the situation would have been handled differently had he died. If then my experience and the impact it had on me would have been taken more seriously. And at times, I wished he had. And not because I hated him, but because I loved him so much. I loved him so much that knowing that he was out there somewhere, making the choice every single day not to call, not to write, not to come home; it was unbearable. I'd see him everywhere I went. He was every dad standing at the bus stop, waving at the girl next to me. He was every father who walked through the cafeteria doors at lunch and never walked my way. He was the dad taking pictures at my play, only his camera and beaming pride was always directed elsewhere. Believing that he wasn't with me because he couldn't be would have given me some comfort. Being abandoned by choice was a wound that reopened every single day.

And then you happened.

My life is divided into two parts -- the days before you came into it, and all the days after. I remember how excited my mother was about you and how she looked at you. Of course, as an adult who has had a marriage end, I now think of that look and smile. She deserved that feeling, she deserved you. But when I was little and untrusting and my mother was all I had left, I resented you for taking a piece of her away from me. I didn't want to lose her too, so I challenged you constantly. You were changing my life and at that point in time, I could only equate change with heartbreak. I pushed, and you dug your heels in. I stretched the rules and you narrowed the boundaries. I couldn't win, I couldn't make you leave, and I couldn't be hateful enough to mask the pain. I believe that you knew we were at war, and you chose to fight. And rather than fighting me with harsh words and games and threats, you came armed with so much love, choosing the family you wanted over the easy way out. That was new to me.

And I loved you for it.

You loved me on my darkest days and held me in my weakest moments. The way you love me is relentless and comes with no conditions or expectations. I don't think you understand the impact that it's had on me. My very first example of a father's love was my very first heartbreak, and you healed it. You saw that emptiness and you filled it with trust and compassion. You were careful with your words and your actions, and you never stopped looking for new ways to show me that you care. You've created a high standard for the kind of love that I'll accept because you've shown me how much I deserve. You loved me so much that I had no choice but to love myself.

And I can't ever say it enough, but thank you. Thank you for choosing me to be your daughter. Thank you for choosing me every single day.

Happy Father's Day.