Dear Dad: Thanks for Always Having a Pack of Big Red

Looking at this picture of us, I can’t help but feel things could’ve been different. You’re smiling at me, impressed that you and Mommy were able to create this giant sack of breathing flesh. I was a big baby. I weighed nine pounds and thirteen ounces when I was born. Apparently, I was always eating or crying because I wanted to eat. But in this picture, I seem content. I’m pressing my little hands into your chest for balance, and you’re holding my sides protectively. Your big, hooked nose spreads and the sides of your lips curl as you smile at me. Little did I know that one day I would have that hooked nose, too.

I will never overlook how much you tried. You were my basketball coach, my concert chaperone, my chauffeur, my midsummer ice cream buddy. You brought me and Sondra (my sister) to church every week. If we behaved, you would buy us a soda from Dunkin’ Donuts after. Sometimes you would yell at us on the car ride home from church if we talked or fidgeted too much. I would go to Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day with you, proud of your big office and the way your coworkers respected you. Growing up, you were a big part of my life. Even when I was very young, I knew that you loved me. You just had a funny way of showing it.

From a young age, I noticed your anger. One minute we would be laughing, the next, you would be yelling at me. You and I were similar, but also so uncompromisingly different. I consistently challenged your authority, and you would consequently put me in my place. You became violent in both your actions and your words. I started to dread when you would come home from work because I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. I distinctly remember asking you twenty questions one night. After a few questions you told me to shut up. I know a lot of the questions I asked were dumb, but I guess I hoped that if I asked enough of them, maybe one of them would stick, and we would be able to create some kind of bond. I guess that was naive of me.

Gradually, the connection we once shared dissipated. But deep down, I still wanted to make you smile and laugh, and ultimately make you proud. But no matter what I tried, I felt this wedge growing between us. Looking you in the eyes became harder, we stopped hugging entirely; even on Christmas or a birthday, we kept our distance. When you saw my cousins, you would hug them and ask them about their life and listen interestedly. Why couldn’t you do that with me? I’m sorry that me, James (my brother), Sondra (my sister), and Mommy weren’t enough for you. You told Mommy that you weren’t happy and a few months later, you moved out. I was seventeen and just leaving for college. I came home for winter break and found out that you had been cheating on Mommy for years. Even though we all really needed you, you still left us. And the the truth is, despite everything you put us through, I still love you so much. And I hope that you are happy. Honestly.

Things are slowly getting better between us. You call me sometimes, we go out for dinner once in awhile, and we even hug occasionally. Even when I’m with you and your girlfriend, or your girlfriend’s daughter, I try to be happy for you. I really do. But my heart breaks when I see you laugh and share inside jokes with them. That’s all I wanted from you. All I hope is that one day things will be okay between us. You’ll laugh at my bad jokes, and I’ll take my time talking to you, confident that you want to hear what I have to say. But even if that doesn’t happen, I hope you always know how proud I am of everything you’ve done for this family and how much I love you.

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