Dear Father of mine. The love I have for you is a bittersweet love. In the beginning, a doting single father raised two kids. By all accounts a perfect father. You loved and supported me to be the person I am today. I will never forget how great you were. But somewhere somehow I missed something about you. Something so crucial that'll affect me until my last breath. It was my last 6 months of high school when you cast me out. Just one month after my 17th birthday when you discovered I had snuck before work to see my boyfriend one fateful Saturday morning. Work started at 9 am I left at 8. For 15 minutes I sat in my boyfriend's room talking before we both went in. At some point, my manager asked me if I could go to another store to help. I called you to let you know and you informed me you saw I wasn't at work at 8 am and my heart went through the floor, then I knew what was in store. The screaming match that ensued when I got home at 1:00 am kept me awake until 5:00 am knowing I still had to work at 9. This was my last day at your house. But nothing. Not the lying about where I was. Not the sneaking behind your back. Nothing but the fact that you thought, just thought, that I was with a boy was what made you cast me out. Still, I invited you to my graduation for you are still my father who I still love and respect, but I never saw you. I knew you were there with my sister. But because you saw the boy who had taken me in, you left before I ever saw you. Not a word. Not even a text. Still, I had hope. I keep turning over and over in my head the words you said about my mother. “How could someone ever choose drugs over their kids?” But I believe addiction to be harder to kick than prejudice. To make it worse. She had always, always tried in the 10 years we had no contact with her she always tried to talk. I can count on one hand the number of times we've talked since that Saturday. Once for the graduation. Once for my enlistment. One happy birthday. And once before I left for basic. I remember so vividly that last one. Because it's what gives me hope today three years later. You had told me all you needed was a little time to come around. Let the dust settle from my escape. Let you grasp your feelings. I told you then that the boy wasn't going anywhere. We'd been together a year by that conversation. We spoke about how I'd reconnected with Mom and how she seemed to be much better and I was hopeful for the relationship. You reminded me we'd done this song and dance before. Unfortunately January 1st, 2022 the day before I left for the second part of my training she took her own life. I was too drunk the night before partying with my best friend and boyfriend on New Year's Eve to answer her call. I never got to tell her I got married just 10 days before. Married in the back of a hair salon by the barber who'd only performed 1 wedding before mine. I didn't want you to know and out of fear she'd talk to you about it I didn't tell her the last time I saw her on Christmas Day. I haven't heard from you since. Didn't see you. Didn't call you. I gave up then. A part of my soul died whether I knew it or not. Yet in all this turmoil, my now husband by this time had stood solid. An ever-present wall for me to lean on. My anchor to reality. So I left. Off to Fort Sam Houston, I went. Luckily the army gave me the money and time off to fly home for her funeral. I decided to leave you and everything else during those months. My husband and I moved to San Antonio 1100 miles away. So here I am in Texas working as an EMT. I make enough money to provide for the family I want to build with the love of my life who's never wavered by my side. I'd be lying if I said there weren't hard feelings from him towards you. You never gave him a chance. I got his parent's blessing to marry him and you haven't even met him yet we've been married almost two years. Maybe it's hopeless. Maybe my brain is right. But my heart still beats for the chance you'll be there for the wedding ceremony my husband and I swear we'll have in the home we're set to buy in a few months. I still love you Dad, And somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I know that great father is still there. I'll be waiting at the altar for the day you can accept me for who I am. The photo attached was the last photo taken with my mom on December 15th 2022.