16: Dad / by LaQuann Dawson

As a kid, the quickest way to my heart was a promise of McDonalds and a trip to the mall. As I grow older things get difficult, more challenging and a lot less simple. As an adult, intangible things like emotions, bonds, memories, arguments, support, chemistry and love take over our lives and lead a path to our hearts.

I am not an easy person to reach but I’d like to send this to a man who has never stopped fighting for me, my happiness and my safety.

My number one, my hustler, my best friend, my biggest fan, my hero, my pops. Since I can remember you’ve been the strongest man and the strongest person I have ever and could ever encounter. I know that we are very different people but if only you knew how much I’ve adopted from you, how much you have taught me. 

You’ve taught me not to take shit, from anyone. All that we have been through in my twenty-one years has up to the men we have both become. Growing with one another. Learning from one another. You’ve shown me tough love. From telling me when my breath smelled bad when I was little all the way up to warning me about moving to New York. The older I get the more my mind becomes my own and the less control you have over my life choices. I love and appreciate your ability to let me know when you don’t agree with me or when you are nervous for me. My reactions may be defensive but the fact that you care enough to be vocal makes me feel so loved. 

You know first hand what it is like to be abandoned and I commend you for not allowing my to live a life without a father. I’ve witnessed people who live generations and generations with deadbeat fathers who live lives where they see their children once a week and have a clear conscious. The only person who has called me nearly every single day since I’ve had a phone. You’ve forced your way into my life even when I tried to push you away. We naturally as human beings are emotional and we have different levels of sensitivity that define how much hurt we can endure. I apologize for any pain I’ve ever caused and I apologize for not hugging you enough and for not telling you that I love you every day like I tell mom. But I do hope that you know that I do and always will. 

Thank you for being there for every heartbreak and for every disappointment. Thank you for never giving up hope on me and for leading me on a path to whoever I am to be. Thank you for following me when I need it and for stepping back when necessary. And thank you for not saying “I told you so,” every time I slip up.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but you get older you get a little softer. More understanding, open minded, more sensitive, more relaxed and a little more like me if I might say. As I get older I see myself gaining more attitude, more confidence, more voice and more like my dad.

Though we disagree sometimes and we don’t always see the world in the same light, it has been an honor and a privilege. To be raised by someone who more girls in my grade had crushes on than had on me. Living in your shadow growing up was not easy and I hope you are proud of me for stepping into my own. I am so proud of you, watching you chase your dreams and never being too comfortable with life and your surroundings. 

I get a little in my feelings thinking back on our life together. How close we were, me sleeping on the way to Cleveland half listening to your phone conversations. Going to Burger King every morning with my brothers. Getting haircuts every other weekends. Listening to Jay-Z and Debra Cox and Mint Condition, setting an early appreciation for classic music. Introducing me to fashion and being the best dressed dad at student-teacher conferences. Seeing the little bit of heart break when I stopped wearing sneakers and started growing my hair out. Watching you fall in love with my sister. Seeing you maintain a friendship with my mom. Seeing you cry when you realized how much pain I'd been in. Witnessing your recovery from every single hardship and curveball life through at you. You taking me to a bar for the first time. I again could not be more proud of a person and I hope you are having a great night. I wish we could be at a bar right now laughing about old times and pretending to watch the game over drinks at our shitty ass Applebee’s. 

There are not enough words to express my gratitude and contentment with this life you’ve helped me build for myself and I am eternally grateful.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Never change, always grow, stay lit.

- June.

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