I hope it's OK that I call you 'Daddy' because it's all you ever heard me call you when I was a little girl. I suck at buying cards, so this letter will have to suffice. Basically, I just wanted to let you know that I love you, I hope everything is well, and that I've been trying my best to be the sort of kid you'd be proud to claim as your own.
A huge part of who you are influenced my formative years. Whether it was a quick trip into town to pick up a bite to eat at McDonalds, helping me play the Gorgar pinball machine down at the local pizza joint when my arms were too short to reach both sides, or bringing home that old TRS-80 computer and showing me how to shoot the aliens with the joystick, a lot of who you are rubbed off on me.
Dungeons & Dragons, video games, comic books, and that off-beat sense of humour, you passed all that on to me. Your love of fantasy and Tolkien in particular, your enjoyment of Lovecraft, and your skill with writing? Yeah, I picked those up too. Your creativity and dislike of math? Perfect fit.
I have so very few memories of you from when I was little. I remember Civil War re-enactments, trips to the park, getting up in the morning to say hello to you as you came off an overnight shift and went to bed. I remember somehow completely failing to be the perfect daughter, being so unbelievably stubborn about unbelievably dumb things that it's a miracle you decided not to abandon me to the wolves.
I remember our first dog, a big, brown, country stray with floppy years, who showed up on our porch and hung around our house for several days, all the while you telling mom not to feed him because if we did, we'd never get rid of him. I remember getting up one morning with mom to find you outside on the back porch, sharing some of your breakfast with him, because he looked so hungry and you didn't have the heart to send him away. And I remember you building him his very own dog house over by the garage, lining it with a nice bed of straw, setting it up on cement blocks, even shingling the roof, so that he'd have a place to say warm when it was cold, a place to stay cool when it was hot, and a place to stay dry when it got wet. Because that's just the kind of person you were: once you took anyone or anything into your heart, you did anything to ensure they were taken care of.
Daddy, in a couple of months, it will have been thirty years since you died. I think about what life would have been like if that had never happened. I think about what it might have been to have you at home, helping me with homework, encouraging my talents and helping shore up my weaknesses. I wonder if, three decades later, you would be proud of who I am, who I've become, where I am in my life right now.
I'll never know. And each passing Father's Day, it hurts more. I'm reminded that you're not here. I can't pick up a phone, I can't write you an email, I can't send a text or a Facebook message or a physical card and say, "Hey, I'm thinking about you. Thanks for helping me turn out the way I did." All of my grandparents are gone. I can't call Grandpa C. to let him know what a great job he did raising you. I can't call Grandpa B. and thank him for helping my mother become the strong, caring woman she is today. And I haven't been able to do so for many years.
I don't know what the next decade is going to bring. I'd like to think you'd be really good friends with my in-laws-to-be. I'd like to think you'd approve of my choice of partners, that she'd be everything you'd want your kid to have out of life. But the simple fact is, I don't know and I never will.
Be that as it may, I'm still writing you this note because I've never forgotten you, even thirty years after you were taken out of my life. I'll always love you. And in my heart, I know that no matter how much time and space separate us, I'll always be Daddy's little girl. Happy Father's Day.