Dr. Kelly Flanagan,
On behalf of all women, daughters, mothers, fathers, and future husbands, thank you for this post. I’ve written a letter back, for my father, all fathers, and all men who someday hope to become fathers. You may never read this, but I want you to know that your post helped me to press pause in my busy day to think about all of the ways my father has shaped who I’ve become.
I’m all grown up now. At least, I like to think I am. I like to think that because I have a job with a fancy title, a New York apartment, and a savings account with ACTUAL savings in it, that I have it all figured out. Some days, I like to think that my sense of independence (inherited from my mother), combined with my competitive nature and occasional stubbornness (let’s be honest, those traits are all you), will be enough to carry me safely through each and every challenge.
Recently, I realized I don’t know the first thing about love.
And I called you.
Dad, I’m not the girl who hides beer bottles in the back of her closet anymore.
Trust me, I know I can’t get anything past you. You know I’m not okay, simply by the way I answer the phone.
Dad, I understand that you may have judged the people that I’ve dated (and rightfully so, a few of them were doozies), but thank you for never judging me.
I remember there was a time when I told you I wanted you to keep your nose out of my business. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean it one bit.
There was a time when I didn’t want your opinions on my high school relationship, which you later renamed, “The Thing That Wouldn’t Die.” I’ll never forget how horrified I was when you told me that I wasn’t allowed to hang out at his house until you met his parents. At sixteen, I couldn’t comprehend the urgency and necessity behind that demand. I was convinced you were simply trying to ruin my life.
Dad, thank you for treating me like precious cargo.
I didn’t want your opinions on the boy with the tattoos. He was running from the world, and I wanted to be the person he was running toward. He was a walking contradiction. Hot tempered, unless he was reading poetry. Smoking a cigarette, unless he was playing guitar. He disrespected authority, but I’ll never forget the fear in his eyes the first time your car screeched up the cliffs overlooking the beach where he and I sat, two hours past my curfew.
He called you sir. That’s when I knew it was over.
There was a time when I didn’t want to hear your thoughts on my long distance relationship in college. You watched, helplessly, as he stretched his arm across countries and oceans, and ripped your little girl’s naive quick-to-trust heart out. He poured salt in my chest and waited for me to shrivel up like a pathetic snail. Heartbreak has a funny way of teaching us life’s most important lessons. Struggle is never permanent.
You said, “I told you so.”
I slammed the refrigerator door, and begged you not to be right.
But to just be my dad.
“FOR LIKE, FIVE MINUTES!”
For the record, Dad, you WERE right.
And that doesn’t mean I won’t school you in a game of basketball every now and then, old man. You know better than anyone that I’ll kick my heels off and take you to town, even if I’m wearing a dress. What can I say, you raised a little girl that can hang with the guys. I still believe Larry Bird was the greatest passer of all time, 9 times out of 10 I’ll pick a sports bar over a fancy dinner, and if there’s a juke box, my money is going to a Bruce Springsteen classic.
All jokes aside, Daddio, when I’m trying to balance my love life and my personal life on a seesaw, and they’re both about to fall off, I know there is one man who will always even the scale.
Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to be alone, but that I have no reason to ever FEEL alone.
That my self worth does not lie in anybody else’s approval.
That I am just as strong on my own as I am with a man in my life.
Thank you for still loving me, even when I called you a ‘Douchebag’.
Thank you for still loving me, even after I hung up on you.
Thank you for still loving me, even when I didn’t love myself as best as I could.
You’re still my hero, Daddy. Superman has nothing on you. I hope someday, should I ever have a son, that he’ll grow up to be half the man you are.
All my love,
Your Biggest Fan