06/19/2011 05:07 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2011

To the Most Important Man in My Life - Happy Father's Day!

Dear Dad,

I can spin a beautiful story, but, somehow, the truth always seems to come harder. Ink spilled across paper, painting a world of my creation -- that, I can do. But somehow it's infinitely more difficult for me to put how much I love you into words, to capture all the thoughts whirling around in my head and set them down for you to keep for an eternity. It doesn't feel like words are good enough. And consider how much I love words, too, that shows something. Because, in the end, the fluctuations of human nature and human emotion are at once too slight and too vast to confine to pen and paper. I'll try, though. I promise you, I will try, because you deserve nothing less.

So let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl. And although she isn't the most important character in the world, this story will be told from her point of view. This girl turned fifteen last August, and it was her second year of high school. She got more than she bargained for, and, if her first year showed her the beauty of the teenager years, her second showed the flip side. She would get angry over the slightest things, and start to cry at nothing, and yell at her parents just to feel like she could do something about her messed-up life. Did I mention that she was a tad bit melodramatic? But throughout all that, her parents never did anything. Of course she would break the rules. She wasn't the easiest child to raise. She would cry, scream, beg, anything just to get her way. The only merit I can give her is that she, despite how she acted, felt guilt. It killed her inside to know she was hurting her parents, but she would do it anyway. And sometimes, late at night, she would think how her life was terribly unfair. At that time, though, she would remember the stories she'd heard growing up, of how her parents didn't even have enough to eat. And here she was, complaining about not being able to hang out with friends enough? It would be at this time that she'd get into a mental argument with herself, and hope to fall asleep before she truly turned mental.

Nevertheless, though, this girl eventually realized that there are some people who offer love unconditionally, and to push it away, to toss it aside and to abuse it like it was nothing--that, in itself, was the greatest sin she could commit. She's trying, now, she really is. She tries to smile, and to love, and to seize every moment and to constantly remind her parents she loves them.

How do I know?

Haven't you realized, Dad, that that girl is me?

I love you, I really do. But to say this means nothing. Anyone can say the words. But I beg of you to trust me when I say that I love you.

I could tell you I love you because you're my dad, because I have to. That would be true. I have been obligated to love you.

That's not the only reason. Not even close. I know I don't know everything about your past. In fact, I know hardly anything. I know it was a struggle and I know the basics, but I know nothing about your thoughts and feelings. All I say now is based on your actions.

Do you remember? Do you remember all those times you'd stay up and force me to learn math? And your eyes would practically light up as you taught me something new, and your words would begin to flow faster and faster until I could barely keep up, but it was okay, because I loved to see you so excited. Do you remember how you would work in the garden, and I would bang on a window from inside and wave at you? Do you remember how you'd explain biology to me in the morning as you drove me to school? I think I learned more during those fifteen minute sessions than I did in most of my classes.

So I thank you, Dad, for instilling in me such a love of science. Thank you for showing me the beauty of the natural world. Thank you for those countless times you would take us camping or fishing or some other outdoorsy activity, and we would be complaining the entire time.

Thank you for never giving up on me, even when it felt like I would give up on myself.

Your strength, your discipline, your confidence, and even your corny jokes... they have changed my life, and enabled me to grow into someone I hope you'll be proud of.

If I never become anything more, I will be satisfied to say I am your daughter.

And if I do accomplish all that I want to in life, know that all the credit belongs to you.

All my love, for eternity,

Grace Li

P.S. There is a guy who usually eats very healthily. On one day of the week, though, he eats only French fries. Why?

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