“I was quiet yet attentive as a young girl. I had big eyes that were wide open to everything around me. I was fascinated about the world, eager to experience it. I was so hopeful about my future and all that it would entail.
So much of that was because of my parents. They raised my sister and I in an environment that was so full of devotion and love. They were, and still are, so crazy about each other. They have an absolute blast together and have never lost that spark. By supporting each other through thick and thin, they have a marriage that’s thriving. Their relationship is one that inspires, one I always dreamed of having one day.
After they got married 34 years ago, they both wanted to have children. With that hope came a question. They wondered whether or not they should because mental illness, bipolar disorder in particular, runs in my dad’s side of the family. He doesn’t have it, but there was a likelihood that their children might end up with it. After considering their options and knowing there are always risks when starting a family, they decided to try to get pregnant. They were thrilled when they found out they were going to have a daughter.
On March 27, 1990 I was born.
My dad is someone that everyone loves. It’s honestly impossible to not get along with him. He is the life of the party, and has the greatest personality. He loves deeply and supports fully. When someone has a need, he’s there without question. He’s an uplifter by nature. When he walks in a room, his energy is contagious. People love him because there’s a depth to his sincerity that cannot be faked. People are joyful around him because, well, he’s full of joy. He makes those around him always feel loved. He’s a giver, and he thrives on it. He puts his family first and leads with both strength and tenderness.
I’ve always told people that my dad was made to have daughters, and I still believe that. Since I was a little girl, he always made me feel so special and noticed. I have a distinct memory of him setting up the dining room with Beauty and the Beast characters so that we could go on a daddy daughter date and I could pretend I was Belle. Our adventures outside of Disney movies included singing the Barney ‘I Love You’ song to each other.
Growing up, he was at every dance competition and school play, he was my biggest fan. With steadfast devotion, he walked through life with me as he watched me grow up.
When I was about to graduate high school, he encouraged me to go to the University of Missouri to study journalism because of my love of telling stories. He went with me to visit the school, and I knew it was the perfect fit for me. His guidance through my childhood and adolescence led me to a place where I could chase my dream. That’s what he provided for me. While it was hard to move away from my family, I had my parents behind me, encouraging and supporting me.
Fast forward a year later. During my sophomore year of college, when I was nineteen years old, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The same worry my parents faced when considering having kids had come full circle. I had my first manic episode that landed me in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. I was taken there in a police car. I sat in a room overnight while I was waiting to be taken up to the unit, and I called my dad. True to his character, he did what he always does best. He gave his fullest effort to let me know he still loved me and he would never stop reminding me of that. His voice on the other end got me through one of the toughest moments of my life.
The next morning, though I was states away, he was waiting in visitation for me in the hospital. I saw the pain in his eyes. ‘It must be terrifying to be in his position,’ I thought to myself. ‘Perhaps an experience equal to mine.’ I wasn’t myself, but he still looked at me as his precious daughter. When it would have been easy to notice only the illness, he saw me. He and my mom came to the hospital every day without fail, never giving up on me.
He truly showed the unconditional love of a father. Not only did he deal with my mess, but he went above and beyond to love and provide for me, walking side by side with me on my road to recovery. I am blessed to get a glimpse of the love of God, mirrored by his relentless love.
I had another episode my senior year of college, this one even worse than the first. My mom ended up moving to Missouri for several months to help me graduate, leaving behind work, friends, and family. My dad supported her the whole time. I knew it broke my dad’s heart to not be with me every step of the way, but he gave his best.
Soon after, life became even harder for my dad. His father, the spitting image of my dad, passed away. The stress of my grandfather’s passing was hard on my dad’s youngest brother and resulted in his own manic episode. There were now three plates spinning at once and my dad watched and tended to them, keeping them from falling. But there was never a bead of sweat that formed on his brow. He wasn’t about to let this thing we had no control over dictate the outcome of our lives. Even in the darkness, he had hope. He was willing to do anything for the family he loves so much. Because of the unending support from my family, recovery followed.
A few years down the road, an old friend and unexpected flame named Tripp circled back into my life. I hesitated to connect with him because of my illness. Like my parents, when faced with their consideration to start a family, I was deliberating what would be the best for my future based on the possibility of negative outcomes. A feeling common to those that struggle with mental illness. But I learned from my dad that the potential for hardship is always overshadowed by the relentless devotion that shines through those moments. A family shoulders burdens together, becoming stronger through each trial. I channeled the strength to pursue love and happiness, following the footsteps of my father, and I found just that in my relationship with Tripp.
We quickly fell for each other and started dating. Tripp was a perfect fit. He makes me smile every day and my dad loves him just like everything he does, a thousand percent!
A year later, Tripp asked my dad for my hand in marriage. When asking my husband about what it was like to get permission to pop the question, he told me, ‘Your dad simply smiled. You know, that way he does when he can’t contain how happy he gets. And not sharing that happiness would mean keeping it from the world.’ To say my husband’s joy was abundant in recounting that story is a major understatement. That’s what my dad does. He leaves people with a gift to take with them, in this case a memory that couldn’t be retold without a smile. I’m blessed to have two men that love me unconditionally, a husband and a father. The fear that had come full circle was so devastatingly beat back by joy, support, and love.
When we were planning the wedding, I knew I wanted to do something to surprise my dad for our father daughter dance. And this was the moment that brought me here, sharing my story with you.
Dad was always giving and I knew it was time for me to return the favor. The day of the wedding arrived and I’ll never forget how beautiful I felt when my dad saw me in my dress. I was three years old again, his little girl with eyes that asked, ‘Daddy, am I pretty?’ My excitement was reinforced by always knowing his loving answer. He’s made me feel this way my whole life and, in this moment, it meant the world. As he walked me down the aisle and handed me off to Tripp, I knew not only had I found the man to trust with my heart, but my dad had found the man to trust with his daughter.
Then the moment came to show my dad the love he had taught so well to his daughter. We danced to one of his favorites, a Bruce Springsteen song called ‘When You Need Me.’ What he didn’t know was that this version was going to be different. Before the wedding, I edited the track, adding a clip of my three-year-old self singing our song. ‘I Love You’ by Barney.
As Bruce’s chorus dipped, my voice was immediately recognized by my dad. I held him as he dropped his head on my shoulder and tears rolled down both of our faces. I comforted him by putting my hands on his cheeks, as he had done so many times for me before.
The abundant joy I felt in that moment with my father was complimented in the sweetest way. As I wiped my dad’s tears away from his immovable smile, I looked over his shoulder as my new husband gently wrapped his arms around my mom. This was truly the sweetest moment of my life. I got to experience what it was like to love others and give to them like dad. A gift he had given early, and one returned to him now.
God has blessed my life with a father who loves like He does, relentlessly dedicated to showing his daughter she’s adored. Every day, yesterday, and once more tomorrow. I love you, dad.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brittany Williams of Houston, Texas. You can follow her journey on her blog here and Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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