(Clockwise from top left: me with my Daddy & PaPa (paternal grandfather), Daddy holding me & my brother Grayson on the first day of his life, Daddy & Whitney bike-ride, Daddy & Whitney first dance (at my aunt & uncle’s wedding), Daddy rock-rocking us both to sleep, my Big Daddy (maternal grandfather) at the Cherry Grove beach house, PaPa holding my Uncle John & Daddy in his lap, a portrait of my Big Daddy, Me giving Daddy a hug on Christmas Day 2009, holding hands with my PaPa at the zoo, PaPa holding my Uncle John (his firstborn child) as a infant.)
I am lucky. I have had, and continue to have, strong men fathering me. Throughout my life, my own father, both of my grandfathers, and a score of teachers, mentors, church leaders and coaches have supported me. I owe them all so much.
Daddy, you have taught me so much, about the world, about love. I know that your enduring love for me, for Buddy (my brother), and for Momma has given me a whole heart with which to love Mark, our future children, the family we will create. As a child, you are the one who took me on adventures around the yard, through the woods, naming plants and animals, and teaching me: the world is precious, diverse and beautiful. You instilled that quiet longing in me to get to know my world. To learn, and to grow, myself. I thought you knew everything, and when I got old enough to find out that wasn’t true, you taught me new lessons: about grace, about forgiveness and making peace with one’s own limitations. I watched a whole community respond to you almost everywhere we went: children you’d taught or coached, growing to make their own lives and families, and carrying a piece of your knowledge with them into the world. Your influence is so vast. I know deep in your heart, despite your frustrations and limitations, you love what you do. I can hear it in your voice, when you tell me about this student or that one, about how they’ve grown or changed, or how proud you are of them, or how you’ll miss them when they leave your classroom for good. You have given a lifetime of sacrifice and service to these kids, and I will always admire you beyond measure for that.
You are a wonderfully good listener, Daddy, and so patient. I have never known someone so willing to listen with their whole heart. You know me in a way that few others do. You knew the pattern of my hair against my scalp when I was just an infant. You changed my diapers, wiped my nose, rocked me to sleep. You have known my body and mind since its first entrance into this world. And this body and this mind bears such a strong connection to your own. I hope that I am and have always been everything you hoped for me in those first moments of my life. I know you love me endlessly. I have always known that; and, have found comfort in that knowledge. I try my best to return that love to you.
To my Big Daddy (my mother’s father), I wish against all odds that you will find comfort now. I know your body is hurting, and has betrayed you. But, I know you are brave and you are stubborn. Know that I think of you daily. I wish you well. I wish you happiness now, and the strength to forgive yourself and others for their limitations. I love you.
To my PaPa (my father’s father), you have spent my whole lifetime (and more) holding together your family. Please know how much we all love and appreciate you. You are understated in your demonstrations of love, like my own Daddy (your son), but I see your gestures and understand them. You are essential to all of us. You have created such a sprawling and happy family, and I hope we bring you joy. I love you deeply, and thank you endlessly for all you have given me.
To my future father-in-law, “Papa Hill,” you taught the most important man in my life how to love. I can never repay you for that. You showed him, by example, how to work hard in everything he does. He owes so much of his character to you, and therefore I owe so much of my happiness to you too. I love you.
To my Mark, you are not a father yet, but you will be. I know you will make a wonderful one. You are so patient, and so silly. The love that I have for you (and you for me) was first born of our parents love for us. I have waited all my life thus far to find someone who worshipped the way my hair curls against my head, who understood the pattern of my skin, the nuances of my spirit, and who inspired that same long-lasting, trusting love in me. You have taught me what love is. And, I love you wholly; and from that love we can create a new family, a new life together. I want you to know: I get you. I appreciate you. Happy Father’s Day, from me, from our future children, and from our silly kitty-cats. We love you oh so much, and always will.
To my sweet brother, G, you have the world’s biggest heart. Since we were children I have watched your limitless compassion for the world around you. You work so hard, and you love without question, and I know that these qualities will make you a wonderful father one day. Plus, you are silly. . . like, really, really silly. You make me laugh. You remind me that life is joyful, that it has never stopped being the kind of fun, imagination-fueld adventures we undertook by our “creek” so many years ago. Just know that I love you so much, and am so proud of you.