Every day at work, I see what happens to children who don't have fathers in their daily lives. The children know they are missing something, and go looking for that love and male support in all the wrong places. I always knew I was lucky to have such a great dad, but now that I see what happens to a person without a good dad (or communities without enough good dads) I appreciate mine even more.
Dad, you gave me life, love and support. You spun me around and tossed me in the air, and I felt like I could fly. You hauled me around the farm for years, taking care of me all day while mom was at work. When we were walking around the farm, you held my hand. You gave me tons of hugs, even though you didn't come from a huggy family. They were great hugs, bear hugs, where you almost couldn't breathe for a second.
You didn't get too mad when I pulled stunts like locking the doors of the truck and crawling out a window opening so small you couldn't get your arm in. That time when I was four and I started bidding at an auction, you actually bought the sheep for me.
You're not a big talker, but you let me yammer away for years. Once, I was singing in the yard and came in, asking to listen to the professional recording of the song. You told me it was prettier my way. You kept the postcard I sent you while on vacation when I was eight. You would drive your car to the end of the driveway to pick me up after school if the weather was bad. Then you'd wrap me up in blankets in front of the kerosene heater and give me a cup of cocoa.
You made me feel pretty and smart. You believed I could do anything, and made me believe it, too. Except for the sports. You were wrong about the sports. I am not now, have never been, and will never be any good at softball. But I love you for believing otherwise.
You were protective of me, and always told me to stand up for myself. Sometimes we would fight, and I'd start crying. You wouldn't want to apologize, but you wouldn't want to fight anymore, either, so instead you'd make me laugh. I'd get mad at you for using that tactic, but end up giggling anyway.
You have such a good sense of humor. Some people might not see it because you're the strong, silent type, but you're the first to laugh when something's funny. You're also great at seeing the funny side of the hard moments in life. And if someone can get you talking, you tell a great story. It's all in the timing, "or whathaveya."
When I was graduating from high school, I was trying to decide what I wanted to be. We were discussing it in the truck one day. I wondered whether I should choose something safe or something adventurous. Though (being a very practical man) you did encourage me to take some business classes, your main advice was, "You're special. Whatever you choose will work out fine, but don't sell yourself short." My jaw dropped at such a declaration. That statement has helped me to be brave at times when I might otherwise have played it safe.
When I became an adult, it was hard for us at first. You didn't know how to treat a grown daughter, and I didn't know how to behave as one. But when I told you what I needed, you did your best to do it. You've become a great listener, and so supportive. I love you so much.
Like mom, you made it so I never even understood the saying "You can't go home again." I'm afraid I must finish my letter to you the same way I finished hers: the words "Thank you" are so inadequate, but they're all I've got. Thank you, Dad.