Dear Dad

Technically, you started out as stepdad. When you started dating my mom I was uncertain about you, and when you got engaged there was much gnashing of teeth as I decidedly did not want to move. I can see now that in the throes of my teenage angst I really did not see things outside of my own selfish little world.

But after we moved in and things settled down I realized that I liked you after all, and you were really, really good for my mom. It was wonderful to see her so happy after so many miserable years. I can’t remember whose idea it was for you to legally adopt me, but I’d like to think it was mine. All I knew at the time was that I desperately wanted to be “yours”. How strangely thrilling to think that as I turned 34 this month, I have now officially been your daughter longer than I was not!

I often wonder if it seems strange to you or others that I have never taken to calling you by the name Dad, since I most definitely consider you to be that. Instead I have always called you by your nickname. I wonder if this hurts your feelings. The truth is this: in the vocabulary of my childhood, Dad is someone to be feared, even hated, and certainly not someone to be respected. You are so far from these things that the idea of calling you this, somehow seems disrespectful to YOU. For you have become so much more than just my father: you are one of my best friends, closest confidantes, and the one I consider my wisest counselor.

Sometimes I am sad that I did not get to be your little girl, and that I did not grow up with your sons. I realize years later that for a long time I tried to force that kind of relationship with them, to be their true sister, in an effort to feel more like your child. But I’ve recently realized that though I did not have the pleasure of your company (as they did) when I was small, I am no less your daughter than they are your sons. I am your child in a different way, and strangely I feel as though perhaps in a luckier way. Certainly I have the enormous benefit of geographic proximity. But beyond that, I have the benefit of knowing that I was *chosen*—and in a time of my life, my teenage years, when I wasn’t exactly cute or engaging or possibly even very friendly. How very fortunate I am that you gave me a chance and loved me anyway.

I cannot even wrap my brain around the thought that someday I might not be able to pick up the phone and ask you “What are you doing?” and when you’re ready to get off you’ll say “Alllright.” When your dad died three years ago, and as you have aged, it reminds me of our human mortality and that someday I might have to face your absence in my life. Just the thought tears me up inside, because you are one of the most important people in the world to me. I rely on the hope that though we do not share biology that I have somehow picked up your strength and your wisdom.

As I am fostering relationships with my own stepkids now, I see you as my best role model of what a stepparent should be. I used to feel sorry for my stepkids, that their parents got divorced, and everyone knows that nobody wants a stepmom. But a very smart person told me that I should be looking at my role as a chance to replicate your role in my life, and consider my stepkids as lucky as I consider myself. I only hope that I can live up to your example!

I don’t say it enough (as you probably know these words are hard for me) but I love you with all my heart. I am so thankful for you.

Your daughter

~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on October 12, 2009.

One Response to “Dear Dad”

  1. […] bother you that I no longer consider you my dad? That I post letters like the one I posted here on October 12 to the man I do consider to be my dad? I hope it […]

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