Shoebox Letters collects 30 letters by daughters written to their fathers
Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of letters excerpted from Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads, a collection of over 30 letters from daughters to their dads about the role that their dad has played in their life. Heartfelt storytelling told through the unique letter format, the reader gets a rare, personal glimpse into the life between the writer and the father. From more from Clay Brizendine about the Shoebox Letters, check out the foreword excerpted from the book and a Q&A here.
We’ve always had a special bond. Call it what you will, “I’m the apple that didn’t fall far from your tree,” “the relationship between father and daughter.” When I once complained jokingly to mom that she loved her son more than me…her very straight-faced response, “Well…your father loves you more.”
I never questioned the love from either one of you. Now that I have a daughter, I think about the power of love between people and it reminds me of the first thing you ever told me. I know the story well because you tell it at dinner parties, to new parents and to my boyfriends growing up. In the delivery room, when I was born, you say you held me in your arms and whispered, “I will love you unconditionally for the rest of your life and the Red Sox will always break your heart.” Everyone laughs and remembers the second part. I remember the first. It has defined our bond. Now that I’m a parent I think about how profound those first words were. And while I’m extremely happy the second part has turned out to be only half-true, I’m especially glad the first hasn’t wavered.
The feeling that I was loved unconditionally enabled me to grow up and feel secure, even when things weren’t perfect. It allowed me to hear your anger when I did something wrong, take your criticism when I asked for your opinion (even when I didn’t ask) and gave me the self-confidence to take risks, seek challenges and admit failure. If you have love; you have something.
You can’t underestimate the importance of telling a person you love them unconditionally. You were always so vocal about it. You didn’t expect me to know that you loved me just because you were my dad. You made sure I knew that you chose to love me. You told me explicitly that you loved me in every phone call, every evening we said goodnight, at least once a day and after every fight. You wouldn’t let me walk away as a child unless I said it too. We even developed our own code for how much we loved each other. “I love you 7,” I once said when you asked me just how much I loved you. It is to the moon and back.
You extended this love beyond your children, showing us that you don’t need to be born into unconditional. You loved mom instantly and for 40+ years until she died. And you continue to love her now and you don’t keep it a secret. You have invited others into this circle and treated them as family. While I have seen people fall from your graces, everyone knows that if they needed you, you would whisper in their ear again.
You have shown me the power this love instills. You have truly loved me unconditionally for my whole life. I am grateful.
It does not mean you treat me like I have no faults. You have always told me that you will be honest with me. I can’t say that I always liked this approach you’ve taken. I much preferred hearing Mom’s “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it all” approach to life. But I do know that it’s always easier to hear your Truth because I know there’s an unconditional band-aid of love to put on when truth hurts.
I love you 7,
—lead photo by rduta/Flickr