Dear Dad,

I know you have been struggling, and I know you have been in pain, and I just want you to know that I am here. I am here to take care of mom, and clean the house, and feed the dogs, and make sure everything is falling into place. I am taking care of everything and being the [wo]man of the house while you are down.

The truth is, my step dad was ill for a while. My step dad has been more of a father figure to me than my own dad was. My dad was good growing up, but he did not display how to treat a woman. My step dad did though. He treated my mom like a human being. He made her laugh, smile, and feel like a woman. I have watched my step dads worst days, and his best. There were times where I thought I would not get to see my step dad again, but then he came out fighting like a champ. This letter is everything I wanted to say to my step dad, when I couldn't say anything at all.

Dear Dad,

I remember the day you and mom got married like it was yesterday. I remember the crazy pastor screwing up the ceremony and referring to you as our "new dad" and my sisters and I were all pissed. It is not that we didn't like you, but we were not yet ready to admit the impact you would have on our life. You see, you walked in at a time where our real dad was trying to combat his alcoholism and be a better person. You came in to our life after mom promised she wouldn't remarry. You came in, at just the right time. Over the next couple of years we would have a series of trials. You became ill, and needed to receive a double lung transplant. You spent months in and out of the hospital, where we didn't see you, we only heard from mom as to how you were doing. Then one very special day would come. [Memorial Day/Labor Day]. The day you received your double lung transplant. Mom called me and told me what was going on, and I fell back asleep. Just to wake up ten minutes later to realize the severity of what she said. But dad, you did it. You survived every trial and you are here today. I never knew exactly how close we would get to each other. That one day we would be moving to your farm, where I would fall more in love with the country side than I thought possible. Or that one day you would be telling me, "yes, I will teach you to drive a stick". I never thought these things would happen, because I feared they wouldn't. I feared I had so much to learn, and not enough time for you to teach me. Now, I am 23 and on my own. I have my own apartment [near my real dad] and all I can think about is coming home to see you. You were there to do everything I ever needed you to do and everything I didn't know I needed you to do. You stepped in and paid for my education, you paid for my college apartment, you made the down payment on my car. You provided me with a blessed life. For that I am truly grateful. While you were ill there are things my friends told me, that at the time seemed harsh, but now they seem like the best advice I could have ever received. Below, are th things I learned from the trials we faced.

1. LOOK FEAR IN THE EYES and then conquer it. College was hard. You taught me that every trial it threw at me, to look it straight on, and conquer it. That is exactly what I did. No cross to big to carry, no bridge to long to cross. I took everything I ever wanted, and every doubt I had, and I put the works in progress. I accomplished so much, because you taught me to look straight forward and persevere.

2. NEVER STOP FIGHTING. You gave a vision in mind, a goal, an end result that you see feasible. So make it yours. I used this motto when applying for jobs and running for positions in my sorority. When I saw a job I wanted to take on, I never stopped fighting for it, because you taught me that it never really is over. And if you stop fighting, eventually you will lose it all.

3. LIFE IS MORE THAN WHAT YOU THINK. Despite the fact that you should never stop fighting for what you want, you need to realize that when you lose those battles there is a reason, and life is more than a few white flags. Life is going to be what you make of it, and following the path carved out for you, will give you the fullest life possible.

4. DROP. IT. There will be things that bother you, and you will want to hold a grudge, but just drop it. Let's be real, whatever grudge you are holding, it is not worth the relationships it will damage due to the fight that may ensue. Life happens, and things get in the way of that, but when you fix the problem, drop the issue. Be happy, smile, and move on. At the end of the day, its the number of smiles that bring the memories, not the number of voices raised and frowns shed.

5. DO NOT LET A MAN TREAT YOU POORLY. This is the biggest lesson I learned from you. You have met my boyfriends since you have been in my life, and the biggest thing that you taught me was: It does not matter how nice they are to your mother and I, because he can kiss my ass all day, but if he isn't treating you the way you want to be treated, then there is no point in carrying on the relationship. My whole life I have watched relationships fail, and what you taught me is to not settle for anything less than what I think I deserve. The truth about this for all women, though, is we shouldn't settle for anything less than what we think we deserve, because most of us already think we deserve less than what we actually do. You have accepted the terms of my breakup with every guy I have dated, and you have listened to me talk about every guy I like. I know that you will know when Mr. Right is in front of you. And i hope you know, that he better be asking your permission.

So dad, with this I say, thank you. Thank you for teaching me these lessons when you were too weak to stand on your own. Thank you for being strong when you couldn't lift yourself off the floor. Thank you for feeding my mind with these life lessons, when you couldn't even feed your own body. You put up a strong fight, and throughout that fight, you were the most inspiring man I have ever met. You also were stubborn, and hard headed, but you were a champion above all else. Thank you for showing me what true love looks like on the inside and out, because before you, I knew heartache and disrespect. Thank you Dad, for fighting through everything, and still being here with me today.