Part of me doesn't know how to even begin this letter because there's so much I want to say to you.
It's been over four years since I last saw you, spoke to you, or hugged you, and I can't believe it's been that long. Simultaneously, though, I sometimes feel like you could still be on a business trip and will walk through the garage door in your suit with your briefcase after a long flight from Europe or some other amazing place.
There's so much I wish you were here for. Not just Jack's middle school graduation, my high school career, my college process, high school graduation, and moving into college, but also the little day-to-day moments I loved so much.
I loved sauce-making days because you would put on swim goggles to cut onions, and you would always put me in charge of cutting the green pimiento olives (which most people still tell me have no place in marinara sauce, but they obviously haven't tried it) and would let me help you season the braciole despite much protest that I "did it wrong." You would make a mess of the kitchen in your recipe-less cooking storm and Mom would begrudgingly clean it up. We managed to (after much trial and error and some really bad batches that I won't describe) find an almost-accurate recipe for your sauce since you never left us one. It was always in your head.
I miss you picking me up from school on the last Friday before Christmas to go antipasto shopping at King's. You always made fun of me for smelling the soup (especially the Italian Wedding, how ironic) as soon as we got there, and we would wander around the aisles, making sure we had everything we needed, sometimes picking up a struffoli for Great-Grandma.
You mostly did sports with Jack, but food was something we always bonded over. Some of my best memories with you were spent in the kitchen.
I miss reading Magic Treehouse and Junie B. Jones with you, laughing at your impressions and the voices you created for each of the characters. I'm going to be honest: when I was little, sometimes (most of the time) I rigged the method of how I picked who would read with me at night so it always picked you. I didn't want to hurt Mom's feelings, but I loved reading books with you.
I'm sad you never got to see me play field hockey or become a captain my junior year. The one middle school game you were able to get to around your crazy work schedule I didn't even play in, and I still think about that sometimes.
I made it to Villanova's School of Business, and I don't know if I even would have ended up studying business if it wasn't for you. Part of me feels that if I follow in your footsteps (somewhat) then I'll feel closer to you. I'm really loving it so far. I definitely made the right decision.
I still miss you. So much. Every day I wear my locket with the picture of us from my eighth-grade graduation in it so I feel like you're with me. I hear a Police or Boston song on the radio, or I see a rainbow, and I know you're around. I persuaded mom not to sell your car so that Jack and I would have a chance to drive it; another way to keep you around.
I keep a video of you teaching Jack how to swing a baseball bat on my phone so I make sure I can hear your voice whenever I'm missing you. The idea that I'll forget anything about you terrifies me because a girl should never be afraid to forget her father.
Most of all, I want to thank you:
Thank you for showing me the difference between being liked and being respected.
Thank you for always holding me to a higher standard, and showing me that the only approval that matters is my own (even though your question of "well, are you happy with that?" in response to an accomplishment didn't always go over well with me).
Thank you for showing me how a guy should treat me and for you and Mom giving me a marriage to look up to.
Thank you for teaching me about generosity, being humble, appreciating every moment, and what it means to be a good person.
Thank you for providing for me and for giving me a safe place to grow up and discover myself.
Thank you for being an amazing father and role model for a girl who still has no idea what she's doing most of the time.
I love and miss you more than any words can describe, but I hope that you are in a better place in whatever lies beyond this life, watching Jack and I grow up. I hope we are making you proud because I will always be proud to be your daughter.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.