Do you remember when I was a little girl and used to trail behind you as you worked in the backyard? You'd be working on a project, like building a deck or shed, and I'd watch as your hands sanded wood, measured the distance between two points, and painted the outside of our house.
You were always creating something new or tending to something old. Your restlessness in staying still surged your desire to design, construct and produce. The way you'd pull dusted items from the yard and build something useful from them is similar to how you came to be such a great father. Even though you didn't have a dad like yourself - someone who believed in you and told you he loved you - you chose to take the broken fragments of your history and turn them into something beautiful. Your bravery and resilience are beautiful.
Some of my earliest memories with you are in the den of our house, where you'd be sitting in your recliner watching a show, and me being four or five, would squeeze myself into the tiny space next to you, just to be close to you. I remember Sunday afternoons at church where you'd hold me as I fell asleep on your shoulder, and late nights where you'd coax me back to sleep after I woke up sick from eating too much chocolate.
I always wanted to be your little helper. After witnessing you build so many projects, I'd scan the yard for any nails you accidentally dropped, and if I found one lying in the bushes or the blue rocks in the driveway, I'd smile and snag it like I identified your most coveted prize. I remember marching toward you with one hand outstretched and a single nail in my palm, and you'd feign delight for me retrieving such an essential item. I always felt so proud after collecting lost stragglers from your toolbox and you heightened my excitement just by playing along.
My love for singing and Disney movies grew as I got older, and I remember standing in my room, staring out the window to the trees in our yard, pretending I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast, crooning, There must be more than this provincial life! and then catching you filming me with your video recorder. I got so mad that you intruded on my fantasy world and didn't talk to you for an hour. I'm so happy that you snuck videos of me growing up and coming into my own person. Our home videos are some of our most precious possessions, and the most beautiful thing about them is how you tried to capture every moment of your daughters so we'd have these memories for the rest of our lives.
When I was in middle school, I became obsessed with transforming my room into a personal oasis every week. No matter how many times I'd yell, Daaaad!down the stairs for you to hang yet another new frame, you never complained. You happily grabbed your hammer and nails from the top of the living room vanity next to the stairs, a convenient spot to store them since you were frequently requested, and you'd run upstairs to assist. When Kelley and I wanted to play softball, you offered to coach our team and made all of our practices and games fun. You didn't care about competition or if we won. You just wanted us to enjoy ourselves, and because of you coaching us, we had the time of our lives.
When I landed my dream role as Belle in School #4's production of Beauty and the Beast, you were the first person to volunteer to build the set. When I played the Cheshire Cat the following year in Alice in Wonderland, you directed other students' parents on how to help construct the tree I'd be singing from. Even when working a stressful job and supporting an entire family, you never complained about going above and beyond for your daughters. We were your world, and because of the love you so effortlessly gave us, we never wanted for anything. We are who we are today because of you.
Dad, I can't begin to thank you enough for all you've done for me throughout my entire life, and all you continue to do without question, hesitation or complaint. I'm still calling on you for help in my thirties - not from upstairs, but in a text or call - to help fix something in my apartment, to measure a space in my room before ordering new furniture, or to get your advice on what air conditioner to buy. You offer to stop what you're doing to help me and so many times you have, even when it wasn't necessary to do so.
You always want to be there for us, in whatever way we need, and I think that's because you wish you had a father like yourself. If you couldn't experience that type of love growing up, then you'll live your life ensuring that your daughters never want for what you couldn't have.
I hope you know how much I love you, how much we all adore you, and how very grateful I am to be your daughter. I consider myself the luckiest girl to learn from you, and if I have more lifetimes to come after this, I'd choose you to be my dad again and again.
Happy Father's Day to the first man I loved. You mean more to me than you'll ever know.
Danielle (#1) :)