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Dear Dad: I've Never Told You This, But...

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DAD
Suzy Strutner

A girl and her dad have a curious relationship -- especially when that girl grows out of her "Lion King" pajamas, past college and into the adult world.

Writing a Father's Day card this year, I hit the wall. It's not because I didn't have anything to say: I've been filling goofy squirrel cards with, "You're a great dad" and, "Thanks for working so hard" for years. Writing the perfect card is easy.

Writing what I want to say is not.

He knows I love him, and I know he loves me, and we talk on the phone and spend time together. But the deep mushy-gushy stuff -- and the existential stuff, and the sad, painful stuff -- is never part of our conversation. We're grown girls now, and somewhere along the road, our openness with our dads can get accidentally barred by the same guard we put up for other men.

As much as I tell myself my dad will read past my generic phrases to realize how I feel about him, I know there's a good chance it has never -- and will never -- happen.

Dad, this Father's Day I want you to know everything. I want you to know that:

  • I can't stand it when guys call me "sweetheart," but I watch our old home videos just to hear you call me that name.
  • I once cried the whole drive back to college after you slipped me a hundred-dollar bill on my way out the door.
  • One time, when I was 10, I overheard you talking to yourself in your office. You were having an imaginary conversation with my little sister about music.
  • You're the reason, I think, why I'm a selective dater. You give me all the validation I need... a boyfriend would just be a bonus.
  • Thank you for sacrificing so I wouldn't have student loans.
  • I think it's the most adorable thing when you go to the beach and fly kites alone. I hope that one day I'll be so content in solitude.
  • We rarely talk about faith, but I'd love to know exactly where you stand.
  • I feel bad you didn't get a son. Sorry I'm not more tomboy-ish.
  • I know you copped out of my senior speech because you were afraid to cry in front of everyone. I'm more touched by that than by anything you could've said.
  • Thanks for making me play youth soccer. I didn't want to, but now I have something to contribute when my friends get all reminiscent about orange slices.
  • Camping isn't my favorite pastime, but I do it to hang out with you.
  • I know it wasn't easy when you had to force me to do those weird vision exercises as a kid. Thanks for sticking with me -- my sight was worth it.
  • I can't listen to Jimmy Buffet anywhere besides our backyard, because it makes me miss you too much.
  • I take great pride in showing people how you look like Steve Martin.
  • I didn't know what to say when your dad died. I hope you're okay.
  • That time you saw me throw up all over my bedroom from too many vodka shots? Wasn't the last.