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Dearest Daughter …

Dearest Daughter –

Daddy’s little girls.  I’ve been blessed to have two in my life.  You were the first.  And you were the one who didn’t get the daddy you deserved.

Today, I’m again compelled to say:  I’m so sorry.

I was a child myself when you were born.  I was 18 years old, had just finished my freshman year of college, and could barely provide food, much less provide the kind of home or nurturing you needed at the time.  I tried to be a good daddy, I promise.  I know I didn’t try hard enough.  My immaturity, selfishness, and stupidity were too much to overcome.

Despite sterling success and happiness in many areas later in my life, I never forgot those early failures as a father.  For years, I was ashamed and insecure.  I internalized and masked my pain the best I could.  I didn’t really talk to anybody about it.  I should have.

You probably don’t realize that it was you and your graciousness that helped me eventually find some solace.  iPhones, iPads, laptops, Skype, etc. have allowed us to stay in constant contact, and we have grown closer every year, even though we haven’t lived in the same city since you were very young.  We always make the best out of our time together.  It sucks that was usually only a handful of visits per year, but you have never shown anger or bitterness towards me despite the countless band concerts, birthdays, holidays, and volleyball games I missed.  You loved me no matter my shortcomings and our circumstances.  Our relationship is one of the great joys of my life.

Yet today, I’m experiencing a new round of old emotions.  Some sadness even.  Your high school graduation is just weeks away.  That naturally prompted a season of reflection.  I’ve recounted so many happy moments from the past 18 years. (Chaperoning your band trip to Disneyworld was a particular highlight.)  But I’ve found myself too often focused on what I could have done differently and better over the years, especially when you were very young.

But it’s not just your graduation that’s getting to me lately.  For the past 16 months, I’ve had a constant, daily reminder of just how much we missed:  Sabine.

Your half-sister is getting the daddy I wish you too could have had.  A daddy whose face is often the first one she sees in the morning and the last one she sees at night.  A daddy who’s in a loving marriage with her mom.  A daddy who shows her everyday how a man should treat her.  A daddy who cooks her meals, answers her cries, takes her on date nights, and does her hair.

During many of those sweet and routine moments with Sabine, I find myself thinking about you and what might have been.

Still, things worked out beautifully.  You have flourished beyond any parent’s wildest expectation.  None of the credit for that should go to me.  Your mother has been the driving force behind the young lady you’ve become.  Your stepdad has been a positive influence as well.  You’ve always been an ‘A’ student, you excel at anything you try, and you’re simply a good person.  I can’t imagine anything I could have done differently that would have made you a better young woman.  I only wish I could have given you more and richer memories of the time with your daddy.

During moments of self-doubt over the years, my mom tried to reassure me by saying, “Do the best you can.  All you can do … is all you can do.”  I agree.  It’s just that no one tells you how to cope when you realize that doing “all you can do” often means you’re still not doing enough, especially when it comes to being a good parent.

In a way, you and I have grown up together.  Though, I’m sure you’ve made a more significant contribution to my growth than I did to yours.  You spurred something in me.  I was driven and motivated to make you proud and to support you the best way I knew how.  Without you, who knows where I’d be.

I can’t help that the urge is back.  The urge to tell you I’m sorry.  But, I know you won’t accept it.  You would tell me what you’ve been telling me for years: I have no reason to be sorry.  So, let me thank you instead.  I wasn’t a great father to you.  Thank you for being a great daughter to me.

Daddy

Comments

Keith E
Reply

Wow, @tjholmes, thank you so much for the openness of your life. I am a recent CAU MBA 2014 grad and had the privilege of hearing you speak at our commencement.

For the last two years I have traveled back and forth to north carolina , to see my daugher every other weekend, whIle completing my studies. Now I have to move to Michigan for my job, and my greatest fear has always been, what you have expressed, I pray my daughter continues to have the strength what your daughter has shown. I will do everything in my power for her to know my love will never expire. I am so great full for her mother who continues to be excellent at motherhood.

Very inspiring, I needed to hear that, and good to know someone has been through what you are about to go through.

Bjcedes
Reply

This is the sweetest letter – I cried. My life story is similar with my dad, no letter. Mr. Holmes I admire you so much!! I wish I could tell you my story . lol

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Hadi
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Tears…I can relate. You described me…so happy that my Dad and I have a great relationship despite not having grown up with him. Thanks for this..it is such a healing experience.

Shannon
Reply

Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m not sure you even realize how this will impact so many people who read it. I am one of those people as I sit here quietly in my bed sobbing from your thoughtful words. The actions of your daughter have challenged me to be more open to a relationship with my own father, who was absent most of my life. In the last couple of years he’s made a consistent effort to be more present and call more. But now I’m the one who hasn’t been as receptive to the relationship. I know he loves me despite the mistakes he has made. And I know that I love him. At the end of the day he’s the only father I know. I will use your story Mr. Holmes…I will use your words to stay encouraged about this estranged relationship with my father. Thank you Mr. Holmes for being so open and transparent. God bless you!

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