To the dad who chose to stay.
All those years ago when the easy decision would’ve been to run for high ground, to hightail it out of dodge and start a new life. To the dad who said no, I love my kids more than I love anything else. I thank you.
Today, in my current life, I thank you for many things. I thank you for holding my hand when the boy I thought I would marry broke my heart into a million pieces. I thank you for hugging me through every panic attack and stressful day that came up. I thank you for taking my trauma-filled, messed-up life and making it bright and beautiful.
The process of becoming a hero is one that you would know well, but for the audience, I will explain. It happens slowly; most people barely know it’s happening. You hold someone’s hand through the hard times, you rub their back through illness, you make them dinner when they are feeling lazy. It is little things that independently are nice, but together sew a cape and place a shiny headband across your forehead.
You, dad, are my hero.
You saved me in a way that I did not know I could be saved. You reminded me that I was worthy of love, devotion, and care. You told me that life would get better and my heart would heal.
I distinctly remember the moment I knew that you wore the hero cape in my life. I had just been diagnosed with depression after trying to commit suicide. I had been in and out of hospitals and appointments for what felt like years, and you were driving me back to nanny and papas. You had once again taken time off work to take me to an appointment. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and overwhelmed with guilt.
“How are you feeling?” you asked.
“Fine,” I replied, with no details or explanation.
“Feel better?” you asked.
“No… I’m not going to feel better. This is me now. I’m a mess, and I will never feel better, okay? So just stop asking,” I snapped in a tone that was too harsh for the situation.
“Okay, Chelsea, do you want ice cream?” my father asked with no resentment, no anger, and no hesitation.
I said yes to the ice cream. But as I ate it, I thought and replayed the conversation. I had snapped at him. I was rude and uncouth. I was short-tempered and mean. He should have yelled at me. Told me how ungrateful I was, how he hated having me as a daughter. How he wished I was normal like my siblings.
Yet, none of these words escaped his mouth. Somehow, he understood that I didn’t mean to be short. I meant to say, “Daddy, this is really hard for me, I’m scared I’ll never be myself again, and I wish I was okay.” He knew what my soul begged to say, but my voice and heart were too broken to formulate.
See, my dad has this ability. To know what your heart means to say even when your mouth can’t formulate it. He knows that most people are good on the inside, that people make mistakes, and that together you can overcome anything.
When my traumatic childhood came to an end, my world fell apart. But as crazy and unhealthy as my life was, it was my life, and I was used to it. So, without the drama, my world began to crumble. As my life crumbled around me, I looked for a pillar, a lighthouse in the storm. The person I found was my dad.
He saved me in every way that a person can be saved. He was and continues to be my lighthouse, my lion, and my best friend.
So, dad, grab your cape, shine your boots and get ready to soar because you, sir, are the true definition of my hero.
I thank you for saving me back then and today. Thank you for offering me ice cream, thank you for holding my hand, and thank you for being a dad.