To My Daddy,
If there ever was someone I truly thought of as a superhero, it was you.
You tried for six years, tried to have a little one to call your own. You didn't give up after the biological pathways failed, you pushed onward, as much as it hurt. You were destined to be a father, the struggle had strengthened you. So you and Mom put together a folder that held all your hopes for parenthood within it.
A young woman picked it out of piles and piles because of the family you both had to offer. Men and women that would later become known to me as "Aunt Krisha" and "Uncle Kerry." There was a tiny baby, a little fighter, born at 2 pounds and 2 ounces who was starving for a wonderful home to call her own. That woman was Annie, and that baby was me.
You didn't care that I was tiny like the New Yorkers did, you didn't care that there was a tiny hole in my heart. My small five-pound form to you was wonderful, as you could hold me perfectly on your forearm. Head in your hand and feet in the crease of your elbow, that is what you always remind me of when we mention how small I was really was. Your hopes and dreams had come true, you had a little baby all your own.
Even if you spent the majority of your nights walking, you have a smile on your face when you tell me about it. You always have a smile on your face, Dad.
We both know life is hard. I've been through the mental illness ringer so many times and you've torn your body apart to make a living for our family, to keep us happy and safe. But you always keep that damn smile on your face, no matter what it is. Of course, like most dads, you do have your temper, but even then.
A long time ago, a little girl would stand on the edge of a pool or even on the balcony of a cabin in Canada and say, "Catch me Daddy!"
My catch-me-Daddy-days may be over, but I will always need you. I might not want to but we both know I'm not going to marry a boy that's as good a mechanic as you. A boy that's got as many years hunting experience as you do. Or a boy that will love me as much as you do.
I will always need you to be here for me. I will need my mechanic. I will need my hunting partner. I will need a man that will love me no matter what life throws at me. I will always need my daddy to catch me somehow.
You've messed up. It hurts me so badly because all I want to do is run home when things are hard. When my eyes are sore from all the crying I've been doing I want to come home and have you hug me tight and tell me it will all be okay. But there's still that rift that has opened up. I need you to close the gap, I've come as far as I can. I need to belong again.
I need the nights in the treestands back. Your whispers telling me, "Not that one" or the ever exciting, "Take him." The walks in the woods to look for mushrooms - it's why I'm so attentive to details now later in my life. Scanning the forest floor for beige mushrooms. You taught me I am a Johnson girl. I am strong. I can and I will.
You may not have gotten a son but you were the first one that taught me there were no gender lines. Mom, Grandma, and the aunts may have wanted me to be a shopper, to love clothes and the frillies, but how many summers did I spend knee deep in pond muck catching turtles, snakes, frogs, and tadpoles?
Although I know you're too conservative in certain places such as assistance for those that need it and about the transgender community, it was you that first taught me girls could like boy things, and when I had boys over and they liked the pink toys I had, you taught me that that was okay too. This in my adult life has given me an ability to open my heart and love everyone, regardless of their skin color, sexuality, or gender. Everyone is human and unique as they are, and they all deserve love.
There's still a lot of both of our lives left. Many lessons still to learn but you've given me a great start on it. I'm spreading my wings and I've been testing them. They're getting stronger and soon I will leave the nest for good.
But for now, I'll still need my daddy to catch me until they are strong enough for me to fly away on them.
I love you to the moon and back, Dad.