I have thought about writing this for some time now, but the timing just wasn’t right. There is so much in my heart that I want to share, and that I want you to know. I am so glad you are my dad. You are everything that I needed you to be. You are the first man I ever loved, and the first man who ever loved me back. While our relationship was not always perfect, I never doubted the two most important things: That you loved me, and that you were proud of me. We’d lost each other for a while there, in my adolescence and early adulthood. We’d become strangers. I felt you knew very little about me, and my life. I knew very little about you, and your inner world, or what went through your head. We’d spend years exchanging only a few words each day, and reserving our I love yous for birthdays and special occasions. I’d always felt that somehow you were like a little boy that never quite knew the right thing to say or do when it came to us kids. You seemed uncomfortable with my emotionality, and the sensitive, and temperamental teenage girl I grew to be. I resented the distance between us. I resented how unhappy you seemed. I wondered if it was my fault. I didn’t know how to access you. I didn’t know how to connect. These growing pains, were not without gifts. Ultimately the longing we both felt for connection helped forge the strong tie we are now blessed to share. Slowly, things began to change… We talked a bit more; we paid closer attention to each other, and what was going on in our respective lives. I imagine you’d always been there paying attention to what was going on with me, and that perhaps my close relationship with mom clouded your presence. I think, with time, mom saw that she needed to make more room for you. To step back a little, so that you could take your rightful place. The turning point for me was the conversation we had that day in the kitchen. You know the one… It was just you and I. I stood before you broken. I’d experienced my first real heartache. I looked up at you, like a little girl, eyes wet with tears. You asked me how I was, and when I tried to answer, but just couldn’t get the words out, you did something I’d only ever seen you do when your mother passed away. You began to cry… You held me, and cried with me. That moment, in all its grief, is one of my most cherished memories. I felt so completely loved, and so completely understood by you. Something I’d craved for so long. I wonder now if you have any idea what that meant to me, or if you can appreciate the impact it had on shaping the woman I’d become? You see dad, because of you, I realized then and there, that no matter what happened to me in my life, that I’d be ok. A lesson earned through hardship that shifted something deep within me. Since then there have been many more moments, and I love yous. Many more memories etched in my heart. You’ve done so much for me. Little things, and big things, I have only to look around my home to be reminded of the dozens and dozens of projects you’ve had a hand in. You became our go-to guy. Every time I look at the crib that held my two baby girls I think about how you put it together, and took it apart, and put it together again. Each memory attached to so much feeling. The first time, it was the anticipation of setting up the crib for the little baby who was still happily living in my belly, knowing that I’d soon become a mom. When we finally did move Maya out of her crib, and you came over to take the bed apart, I remember the warmth and compassion you showed when I couldn’t fight the tears as the reality set in that my baby girl was growing up. Perhaps this moment sweetened for you, as you watched yours do the same. When you put it back together four years later, as we awaited Marisol’s arrival, you were there again tolling away. We’d prayed so hard for her. It was as though, after so much longing, she was not only sent to us, but also to you. Two kindred spirits, witnessing your special bond has mended every hurt I ever felt as a result of our period of disconnection in my teen years. You are a part of her. Watching you love my daughters is like watching firsthand how you loved me as a little girl. Unfortunately when it came time to take the crib apart again just a few months ago, as Marisol moved into her big girl bed, you were not able to help as you had before. It made me sad to do it alone; that the cancer had robbed you of one of your greatest pleasures- helping your kids with stuff they needed done. I know you embraced this role, wearing it like a badge of honor. I am so grateful that you’ve seen Maya and Marisol grow, and me too, into a mother and a woman. While you may not be able to put together cribs anymore, you can still make new memories with your grand-babies. Every visit with them, another precious page in our story. Keep fighting the good fight dad. May I be blessed to inherit even an ounce of your fortitude. Know that I am forever in your corner, as you have been in mine. I pray that more good days lay ahead, so that you might sit happily in all the love you have helped foster. Thank you for being everything that I needed you to be… Your little girl, Shannon.