A Letter of Love
A portion of this post originally appeared on healyoursoul.net on 12/8/16.

Last week my therapist asked me to write a letter to my dad, telling him all the things I appreciated about him. She knew that I was holding on to years of anger from my childhood, which really had nothing to do with my dad, but that I was directing toward him. She also knew how much I respected and loved him. The intent was never to send the letter, just to dig up those feelings of love an appreciation. The process was so healing, and the result so beautiful, that I ended up sticking it in an envelope and mailing it to him. A few days later, through tears, he called me to thank me and to tell me how much it had meant to him. You see, I wasn't the only one holding on to anger and trauma from the past. Reading the words I had written, realizing that I did love him and appreciate him, even when I acted like a brat at times, even when we fought, even when I didn't agree with his vision for my life, was healing for him too. Here is the letter I wrote.

Dear Dad,

Our relationship has been far from perfect. In fact, it’s been down right rocky at times. Most of the time. But through all the ups and downs, I want you to know, I love you. You haven’t been the BEST father in the world, but no one is perfect. I haven’t been the best daughter in the world either, but again, no one is perfect. I want you to know I love you anyways. I’d like to say I love you BECAUSE of your imperfections, but I’m only human, and I’m not sure that it’s true. However, I definitely love you in spite of those imperfections. So I wanted to write a list of the things I love most about you, so you can know how much you are appreciated. Here’s what I love most about you…

I love your artistic ability. You are very modest, but you are a very talented singer and guitar player. I admire that, and wish that I had inherited more of that talent.

I love how you get down on the floor and play with Gabe. You don’t worry about others seeing you are being silly or weird, you just play and have a good time. I can see how much Gabe loves to play with you, and it warms my heart.

I love that you want the best for me. You don’t always communicate in the ways I need to hear your guidance, but I still know that it is coming from a place of love. I know your criticisms are really just your way of loving me. Your way of trying to guide me to make the best decisions possible, so that I can have the best life possible, for me and for my family.

I love how open and vulnerable you have been with my sister. I wish you would be so open and honest with me too, but I guess honesty begets honesty. It’s just hard for me to be honest when I’m always afraid that my honesty will be met with criticism, regardless of the fact that it is coming from a place of immense love. I haven’t always had the best self-esteem, I still don’t if I’m being completely honest, so any criticism from you just makes me feel terrible. I know you are still hurting, and maybe you always will. I hope someday we can talk openly about what happened though, how mom’s sickness, and death, affected us.

I love your work ethic. It is one of the things I admire most about you. You have always worked hard, sometimes working two jobs even, to make sure that we have the things we need. It took me a long time to develop a good work ethic, so I know how important it is to have that quality.

I love how you took care of Gamma when her mind and health started to fail. You take care of her like she was your own mother. That simple (but definitely not easy) act showed so much about your compassion, empathy, and commitment to family. It also showed your commitment to honor mom. I know Gamma probably didn’t understand, especially in her final months, but if she had been able to comprehend the lengths you went to to care for her, she would’ve been amazed at the man you have become. Gandy would’ve been proud to call you his son-in-law too.

I love how you visited your mom so many times in her last few months, despite the fact that her mind was failing her. Sometimes she didn’t even know who you were, but as painful as I’m sure that was for you, it didn’t deter you from hopping on those planes each month to go see her. I can’t imagine the time and money you spent visiting her in her last six months, but you did it willingly and lovingly.

I love your commitment to family. I love how you make time to talk to your brother. I love how you make sure you talk to me at least once a week. I love how see Nikki at least a few times a month. I love how you’ve grown a bond with Lidia’s dad. In my book, you are the definition of a family man.

But maybe most of all, I love your undying love for mom. I was young, and have blocked out a lot of the memories of what happened. But I remember how you cared for her as she got sicker. I remember you wheeling her into my 8th grade graduation, and how I was embarrassed that my mom was in a wheelchair, but you never once seemed embarrassed or ashamed. I remember her wearing wigs and bandanas to cover her hair loss. I can’t imagine how that must’ve made her feel. But I know you were supportive of her, and I’m sure you told her how beautiful she was, even when she didn’t feel it. I remember you visiting her at the hospital. I remember you taking us to see her at the hospital, even when she was in a coma. I remember our last conversation before she died. I remember sitting in your bedroom on the side of the bed. I can even remember which side of the bed it was. I don’t remember the words we exchanged, but I remember that it was the first time in my short life that I really understood that she might not come home. I remember how much we cried, and how you held me and let me cry. And you cried too. You must’ve been so scary, knowing that you were facing a lifetime without her. A lifetime of raising girls without their mother. But you were still there to support me. You cried but you held me and let me cry. You did the only thing you could do to help me in such an unthinkable situation.

This certainly isn’t a complete list, but these are possibly the most important reasons that I love you. We definitely have our differences, but at the end of the day, you will always be my dad. While I may not agree with you, I will always love and respect you.

Love always,

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