He’s the first man I ever loved—and the first man who ever loved me.
He’s the man from whom I inherited my strong nose, my gap-toothed grin, and my bowlegged walk—three things I loved as a child, hated as a teenager, then learned to love again as an adult.
He’s the man whose shoulders I cried on for a week straight during junior year of high school when I missed qualifying for the state track meet by three-tenths of a second—and his proud arms are the ones I enthusiastically ran to when I finally qualified the following year.
He’s the man who fixed my flat tires, made sure my oil changes were up-to-date, and let me borrow his car whenever mine was in the shop—although I think he’s secretly glad I have a new mechanic, in the form of The Boyfriend.
He’s the man who told me I was beautiful, talented, intelligent. He’s the man who helped build my self-esteem and self-confidence. He’s the man who convinced me that I could be anything I wanted to be. He’s the man who taught me to never allow anyone else to determine my self-worth. He’s the man who fiercely believed in my dreams and abilities—even when I didn’t believe in them myself.
He’s the man who taught me how I should be treated by the opposite sex—and the only one I knew I could count on to never break my heart.
He’s the man I fervently pleaded with God not to take away from me nearly five years ago when he was in the hospital suffering from an unknown medical condition—and although he’s happy and healthy today, I was finally forced to confront the issue of parental mortality.
He’s the man who rushed me to the hospital when I was in labor with my firstborn child—and I have never seen him drive so fast in my life.
He’s the man who has been with me through thick and thin, good times and bad, laughter and tears—and has always helped me put things in perspective.
And for my entire life—or at least since I could talk—he’s the man I’ve called Dad.
When I was younger, I always thought that the older I got, the less I would need him. I thought I would graduate from high school, graduate from college, and conquer the world, cloaked with an armor of independence. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think I’ve needed him more over the last 12 years of my life than I did the first 18 years. Poor grades, broken bicycles, and teenage hormones were nothing compared to colossal career failures, adult heartbreaks, and quarter-life crises.
When I was at my lowest, he shared my sorrow. When I was high with happiness, he shared my elation. When I was low on funds and could only afford a three-dollar birthday card, he accepted that card with the excitement of a million-dollar lottery ticket holder—and then carefully stored it in the file cabinet that houses every single other birthday card I’ve ever given him (handmade and store-bought), in addition to newspaper clippings (authored by yours truly), poetry from my younger years (when I thought I was a mini-Maya Angelou), and quite a few other sentimental pieces that only a proud father would treasure.
School plays. Parent-teacher conferences. Birthdays. Track meets. He never missed one, and as I type this, tears are rolling down my cheeks—happy tears, grateful tears, proud tears. Tears for every single memory I can recall, tears for the sport we shared that strengthened an already unbreakable bond, tears for the man who has forever changed my life.
Violette DeSantis is quoted as once saying, “Hopefully we were all Daddy’s Little Girl. He was, and hopefully still is, wrapped around our little finger…not to take advantage of, but more just for the comfort of knowing he is there.” Sometimes I wonder what my life would have ended up like had he not been there. Sometimes I wonder what things would be like if my prayers weren’t (positively) answered back in 2007. But most of the time, I’m just appreciative of the fact that he’s here. Now.
So happy birthday to my confidant, my voice of reason, my hero, my role model, my biggest cheerleader, and my number one fan.
I love you, Dad. You the man.
Your Little (or Not-So-Little) Girl