This year marks our 14th year together. 14 years.
For 14 years I have watched you grow (19 actually, if you count those years we sat beside each other in middle school and, later, high school). I have seen you shift from a self-conscious, socially awkward, and sort of chunky 12-year-old boy to a strong, determined, and oh-so-sexy 30-year-old man. In those years I have seen you change in every way imaginable: some good and some, well, lets just say some changes were detours, hard life lessons to allow us to find the good.
You started off as my best friend. We were only 17, but you listened to me, and I you. We could spend hours talking, just talking, and we often did. We held each other up, carried each other through those awkward early years, and it didn’t take long for me to confide my deepest secrets, hopes and fears in you. My love for you was strong, but it was more like the love held for a brother than for a boyfriend. But one day that love shifted. I don’t know how or when, but one day I saw you as something more. (Maybe it was the lighting from the fireworks in Carteret Park.) We started dating our senior year of high school and as the years passed those feelings intensified, and my love for you grew. Nothing, however, prepared me for the love I would have for you when you became a father, Amelia’s father, and the most amazing father I know.
You see, Father’s Day has always been difficult for me. I don’t have to tell you that, but after my own dad died, in the fall of 1996, it became a day of mourning — a day to remind me what I didn’t have and, it seemed, every one else did. I was angry and sad. I isolated myself every year. If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself in my company (which you often did), I demanded sympathy. I wanted hugs and snuggles. I wanted to recount tales of my dad. I wanted someone to buy kitschy t-shirts and coffee mugs for. I wanted someone to understand.
As the years passed I gave up my “poor-me” pity trip — a bit — but I still hated the Hallmark-inspired holiday. I still hated what it represented, i.e. what I didn’t have, couldn’t have and would never have again. Then I became pregnant, and you became a dad.
To say I had no idea my heart could swell so much would be an understatement. I never knew having a baby would change us so much but it has. While we still have our own struggles, you slipped into the role of kick ass dad immediately. Watching you feed her, change her, dress her— even though baby blue polka dot pants don’t really match a pink and brown striped shirt — and play with her (hell, even watching you watch her) has humbled me. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and I love you for that. I love you for loving her.
You are Amelia’s superhero. You are Amelia’s protector. And, to Amelia, you are the world. You are the source of cookies and snuggles, the tickle monster, and Daddy-saurous Rex. You check for monsters (ehem, kitties) under the bed and kiss boo-boos better than anyone else.
So thank you for your patience, with me and her, your endless love, and your unwavering support. Thank you for cleaning the cat litter and sorting the laundry, though perhaps one day you can learn to pick up your socks. Thank you for always keeping the toilet seat down and for hugging me everyday, even when I am frustrated and try to pull away. Thank you for being strong enough to admit when you are wrong; thank you for learning how to ask for help, and thank you for teaching me the same. While you may say I am the glue that binds us together, you are foundation to which I cling to.
So thank you, my love. Thank you for being our provider and my best friend. And thank you for being you.
This piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project.