The only photo I have of us together on the day you married my Mom is this one, with you in the background. I've carried it in my wallet for thirty years, and here's why:
You're brave. I can't imagine what it must have been like for a middle-aged lifelong bachelor to take on not only a wife but an instant family of five kids. You never complained, not once, not even when a certain damaged, hostile teenager did her worst to aggravate you.
You're a self-made man. Because you never had the chance to go to school, you taught me the value of self-education, and that no matter how old we are or where we are in life, we should never stop learning. I doubt I would have tried to improve my writing or found the nerve to pursue publication if you hadn't spent years encouraging me to teach myself what I needed to know.
You have a gentle soul. You love dogs, and they adore you. So do kids and wild birds. In fact I think the wild birds come around here just because they're hoping you'll be visiting us.
You're considerate. You're the only one who came up with a nickname of my dreadful name that I liked (and thank you for not tacking on the obligatory -y)
You're incredibly gifted. Watching you cook is like watching Barishnikov dance. It's beautiful and amazing and slightly terrifying and makes us all wish we could do something half as accomplished.
You worry. You showed me how to check the engine and change a tire so I'd never have to wait helpless and alone in the dark on the side of the road.
You're not a chauvinist. You never minded my unfeminine choices, or later on that my dainty little daughter preferred to go outside and catch lizards and dig in the dirt instead of playing with dolls (in fact, I'm pretty sure you secretly encouraged her.)
You're committed. You never made me feel as if I disappointed you, even when I must have. You never got angry, or washed your hands of me, or rejected me. You were always there to talk about it and figure out what to do.
You care. You're always happy to see me. Always. No one else in my life can honestly make that claim, not even my kids.
You're a born storyteller. You should have been a writer; you always have the best stories.
You're kind. I think I fell in love with my guy partly because like you, he loves to laugh and also like you, he never yells.
They say we can't pick our parents, but Someone Up There was thinking of me and my brothers and sisters when they made you. I would not be the woman I am if not for all the things you are, especially the Father you've been to me.
I love you, Dad. Thanks for choosing me to be your daughter. Happy Father's Day.