A Letter of Gratitude to the Most Important Man in My Life

A little over a year ago, I wrote a birthday letter to my then-husband on his birthday. While (at the time), I meant everything I wrote in said letter, it now feels very strange to me that I took so much time to write such a heartfelt piece to a man that had only known me a few short months, rather than to the man who has truly loved me all of my 27 years.

I vividly remember being a very angsty preteen and screaming “I HATE YOU!!” in my dad’s face, to which he responded “I DON’T CARE! YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE ME- YOU JUST HAVE TO RESPECT ME!”

So, in honor of those very profound words, which I have never forgotten, I wanted to write a thank you letter to my favorite man in the whole world, and not just because I respect him (and love him). A letter not to the person who said he would love and cherish me no matter what, but to the person who actually did: my dad.

Dear Dad,

Can I have some money? Just kidding.

Thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me. I don’t know how you’ve found the strength each day to still tolerate a child who would aggressively yell at you about her menstrual cramps and walked off the soccer field because she just didn’t like your coaching style. I know it took us a while to get here, but I’m really happy we made it.

Thank you for reminding me how important family is. Thank you for being a young, scared, soon-to-be dad who decided to get a paper route because you wanted to take care of me. You didn’t even know me yet, but you wanted to protect me. Thanks for not getting mad at me for bossing all the boys on the playground around, and for teaching me how to fight. You knew that I’d be short, so you told me to go for their knees and not to tuck my thumb in when I needed to punch someone in the face.

Thank you for never telling me I’m a “princess”, but rather reminding me that I could be a “handful”, and that any guy who wanted to be with me was going to have a lot on their plate. Thank you for always adding that I was worth the work.

It pains me to say it, but I have a list of friends who have never even met their fathers, whose dads decided to skip town, and whose dads don’t even care to know what’s going on in their kid’s life. You have always showed up for me, coached me, and even got teary-eyed when I sang a stupid song from “Oliver” only to become a tap-dancing fork who only had one scene in her first play. Thanks for getting excited at my cheer competitions and telling me that is IS exactly just like “Bring It On”.

Thank you for letting me know that it’s okay sometimes to cry, to be sad, and to be afraid. For someone who spent so much time feeling so alone, it made me feel really good to know that it didn’t bother you when I was sad, and that you understood me. Even when you would tell me to go wash my face and stop crying, I know now that it was because you were worried about me. Because unlike a broken bone or a broken fence, I had wounds that you were unsure how to heal, and keeping me safe was important to you.

Thank you, Dad, for somehow still being able to see the value in me when I can’t find it on my own. It would make me so much happier to bring you over to my house, and introduce you to my kids, but instead I’m sending you screen shots of my over drafted bank account and pictures of my cats. I don’t know if this is the life you envisioned for me, but you’ve never made me feel like you’re not proud.

Thank you so much for always talking about Grandma. I’ve never been able to feel her the way that you do, but when you stay on the phone with me for an hour, and you remind me that I’m not alone, and you ask me about my day, I know that she’s there, in you, and that she’d be really proud of us. Thank you for honoring her everyday and being as amazing of a person as we know she was.

Thank you for taking care of the dogs. If that “Tucker Everlasting” river thing was real, I’d totally make you and Charlie drink from it so I could keep you around forever.

I’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you’ve done for me in the past year. You’ve taught me that life has “mulligans”- that there are do-overs and mistakes, and that it’s ok to make them. You’ve taught me that even though people may seem like they completely have their shit together, they were probably once scared shitless, just like me, wondering when the fuck their life was going to be less hectic.

Thank you for holding me when I was scared on the Haunted Mansion, thank you for pouring hydrogen peroxide in my ears when they would get clogged on the plane, thank you for making me laugh with your Christian Bale Batman voice, and thank you for being my friend- for loving me instead of judging me, for letting me talk about female adversity at the dinner table, and for always secretly whispering that I’m your “favorite” every time we were at a family gathering.

I know that a stupid blog post will never be enough to counteract the countless amounts of dollars and years of your youth you’ve spent taking care of me. I know you’ll never sleep as well as you did before you found out you were having a daughter, but I hope you do know that when you are an old senile potato I will put you in the best nursing home I can find. And I’ll visit you like, twice a month. Just kidding, I love you, Dad.

Thank you for everything, thank you for being my Dad.

I love you crazy and I will forever and ever.

-Kaleena Raye



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