“I Love You, Daddy”

I admit it; it’s true. I’m far too sensitive for a grown man. At any given moment, I could easily find myself whimpering, sniffling or flat-out weeping about something emotional.

Besides experiencing unexpected emo-break downs, I often self-induce my emotional triggers, just for fun. To get my fix, I fanatically stalk YouTube to search for romantic, sensational marriage proposals. I queue up sappy love songs that are guaranteed to make me cry. And, believe it or not, I get teary-eyed just thinking about emotional movies or TV shows.

By far, my biggest emotional trigger is the power of four simple words. Every time I hear them, I sob, weep, and uncontrollably free-fall, head first, into my raw, Dave-emo persona. It takes hours and sometimes weeks to fully recover. Those four simple words are, well, simple: I love you, daddy.

I sobbed the day my daughter was born. I’ve watched the VHS tape countless times and would rewind it to that magic moment again and again: “It’s a girl!”

To earn the Holy Grail of fatherhood, I prayed to all the gods of the universe and begged them to bless me with the ability, aptitude, and assets I needed to be the best dad possible. Most of all, I wanted to genuinely earn the four simple words I longed to hear.

Meanwhile, I had trouble holding down a job and went through dozens of them – causing much stress on my young family.
I love you, daddy.

I sobbed the day my daughter started kindergarten. Although the long days and endless nights of dirty diapers, baby bottles, and ear-piercing colic episodes were over, I was privileged to experience my daughter’s first laugh, first words, and first steps. “What stuffed animal would you like to sleep with tonight?,” I asked after each bedtime story. Meanwhile, I blew through my inheritance and pushed my family into a homeless shelter.
I love you, daddy.

I sobbed the day my daughter graduated High School. Although she was nearly an adult, she would still ask to sit on my shoulders. I felt a deep satisfaction when venerating my daughter’s achievements: she earned high honors, she earned college credit, and she stayed far away from troublesome teenage drama. Although I regularly shielded her from the world, I provided a bit of levity and adventure as any good dad should. Let’s play ‘Push Daddy off the Couch.’ Meanwhile, our family sank deeper into debt and dysfunction.
I love you, daddy.

I sobbed the day my daughter graduated college. I was honored to be her dad: she’s the first person in the family to earn a four-year degree. Without hesitation, I yelled, “That’s MY daughter!” from the bleachers during the commencement ceremony.

I was privileged to offer my guidance, advice, and support with her essays and research papers. Eagerly, I offered my shoulder to lean on when she so desperately wanted to quit. Meanwhile, I divorced her mom, remarried and moved away to pursue my dreams.
I love you, daddy.

I sobbed the day my daughter got married. I prepared a long time for this moment. While walking her down the aisle, I whispered It’s not too late to change your mind. Although she was angry at me for the unwanted advice, she soon realized it was nothing more than loving guidance. Because I wanted her to find genuine happiness, I had to learn to trust and support her decisions. After all, she was a grown woman – fully capable of making grown-up choices.

During the ceremony, she slipped through my arms as I gave her away. Meanwhile, I tortured myself with years of regret.
I love you, daddy.

I sobbed last week when I told my daughter goodbye. It was the first time I’d seen her in nearly a year. While hiking through the Smokey Mountains, we stopped at an overlook to dangle our feet. Tenderly, she put her arm around me seemingly to protect me from falling into the abyss below. I reminded myself that my daughter was a mature, successful, respectable, married woman. I couldn’t be prouder; she’s the best daughter a father can hope for. Meanwhile, I silently asked for forgiveness for years of disappointment.
I love you, daddy.

Yeah, I’m an emotional guy. I cry way too much for a grown man – not only during marriage proposals on YouTube, or when I listen to love songs, or when I watch emo movies – but during the moments that matter the most.

It took many years of soul-searching to finally realize the real reason I carry four simple words so close to my heart: I never believed I deserved to hear them. After all, I’m burdened with years of regret. There are dozens of burning bridges behind me. Shame is laced around my heart. Demons surround me.

I can’t change the past, but I can focus on the future. My hope is, maybe one day, I would genuinely qualify to hear the Greatest Words Ever Spoken. As the years tick on, I may be inching closer to earning that privilege. I’ll sob when I cross the finish line.
I love you, daddy.

Photo: @Dave Pasquel All Rights Reserved