Too many things are often left unsaid, like "I love you" or "I appreciate you" or "I admit it, Toy Story 3 made me cry." In the wake of losing my Dad and my sister-in-law, I was left completely shaken, worried that something could happen to me (like a tragic softball accident where I hit a game-winning grand slam and, upon crossing home plate, I spontaneously combust) and my daughters would be robbed of the opportunity to get to know their unusually large-headed dad.
So I've decided to jot down some important notes. That way if, God forbid, something awful happens to me in the near future, my girls will get at least some sense of who I am, who I strive to be and what I value in life. It's an exercise that I now believe all parents should consider. (Heck, even if you're not a parent you should write a letter like this to someone you care about -- whether it's to a spouse, a sibling, a childhood friend, Zach Braff or the person who invented tag-free undershirts -- seriously, that person is a genius). It may be the hardest thing you do, but one day someone else will be forever thankful that you did.
Dear Ella, Anna and Mia,
If I die tomorrow, I want you to know ...
I wanted to name all of you Bacon. This is true, just ask your mother.
I don't want you to marry anyone named Larry.
I liked hooded sweatshirts before Mark Zuckerberg liked hooded sweatshirts. (The holey, green Adidas one I've worn since high school that your mom has been dying to throw away since we met is proof of that.)
I don't care what you do with my body after I'm gone so long as you don't eat me.
I always wanted to be a superhero, one that could save people when they were in trouble. I also wanted to invent a superhero outfit that didn't involve tights because I hate how tights feel. I hope both qualities are genetic and are in your genes too.
I was fearless. I checked the closets every night for monsters to ensure you were safe.
I ate a healthy diet that mainly consisted of the four major food groups: fruits, vegetables, meats and Nacho Cheese Doritos. For dessert, I skipped the sweets and instead nibbled on your baby toes.
I had two guaranteed highlights of every day: Waking up in the morning to your smiling faces and singing you to sleep each night with beautiful renditions of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and the theme to "Charles in Charge."
I wore the number 5 in little league not because it was the number of legendary Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench (whom my dad told me was the greatest catcher of all time), but because I was the tiniest guy on our team and had to take the tiniest jersey available. Even though I was small, I always played with a big heart.
I don't believe in opening gifts on Christmas Eve until you have finished singing at least an hour's worth of carols.
I played guitar, though I did not play a single song that impressed your mom. (I mean, come on, who doesn't like "You Were Meant for Me" by Jewel?) Must have won her over with my killer good looks.
I made it through life with the help of a lot of amazing friends. I hope you're as lucky in this department as I am.
I was passionate about a lot of things -- writing, Boggle, discrediting lame email forwards, seeing how many days in a row I could wear the same pair of pants before someone noticed -- and it was my passion that drove me to be better at everything I did. That passion included striving to be the best father in the world.
The designated hitter is stupid. Has little relevance here, but it's still an important fact you should know.
I was once on a Bar Game Olympics championship team called "The Tony Danzas." This is true. I have the number 5 jersey to prove it.
I always wanted to build a well-lit library room in the house, filled wall-to-wall with books and one large, comfortable couch. That way I could read The Lorax to you when you were young and When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent's Survival Guide to myself when you were all grown up.
I always chose comfort over fashion, much to the chagrin of your mom (though I would bend on this for only the specialist of occasions, such as your birthday parties and Opening Day).
I snuggled with you at naptime, not because I had to or because I was super tired (though I was), but because I wanted to. Cuddling is one of the best parts of being a parent.
I performed cheesy magic tricks because it always impressed you guys. It was also a sneaky way to get you to "disappear" into the bathroom and go potty before bed.
I rarely bragged about my accomplishments, but I regularly bragged to everyone about how lucky I was to have such smart, kind, caring, funny, beautiful daughters. While I'd like to take credit, those are the same characteristics that caused me to fall deeply in love with your mom.
I loved going to the zoo, watching the giraffes stick out their long tongues and complaining about how bad the elephant house stunk.
I wanted nothing but the best for you girls, even if it meant I had to sacrifice everything (including my bobblehead collection).
And most important, I loved all of you with every molecule of my heart. I woke up every day believing in you, knowing that you'd grow up to be amazing. Whether I get to see it or not, know that I'll always be with you, in your heart, in your soul, watching out for you, protecting you from the monsters in the closet, and bragging to every spirit in heaven about how lucky I was to be a part of your life.
Trust me: Wherever I am, I'm thinking of you and smiling,