I remember playing dress-up with silly, goofy clothes. All kinds of crazy clothes we collected. Halloween costumes, holiday costumes and donated clothes we got from the Red Cross when they had to many donated to them after a disaster your grandparents worked on.
I remember pulling my little girl around my empty 600 sq. ft. office building living room carpet on a blanket, in a sleeping bag and in a box with a rope.
I remember pushing Jecca on the swings for hours, spinning her on tire swings for hours, pushing her in a stroller to every park within walking distance of our home and carrying her on my shoulders for as long as my shoulders could bare her weight, and as long as I could until she was to old.
I remember when Jecca was three, we were playing birthday party with all her stuffed animals on the floor. Jecca would give them names and I'd give them all a different voice. I remember when the light went on in my head and I realized, there was nothing I wanted to do more in the world than sit on that floor with my little princess and play with her. All work could wait. And when she got older, and my time to play with her was after school, I remember I no longer wanted to be a talent agent any more because it would distract me from being there with her at 3:00 PM each day. I had only one priority, my little girl.
I moved from California to Mississippi to be with her, forfeiting money and success to be with my daughter. I did it for her, but I also knew I was doing it for me. I was a type A workaholic in my early 30's and when I was with her, I could be homeless and it didn't matter to me.
I'd fill my freezer with all types of fast-foods so I could make meals that were fun and quick because I wanted to play with her, not cook for her. And I didn't have a lot of toys at my house for her to play with because I knew she needed one home and one nest with everything she wanted when she wanted it, so I let her take all her gifts, her toys and her things home with her to her mother's house. and it hurt to let her do that because I wanted her essence around me when she wasn't there, but I did it because that's what was best for her.
I bought her a swimming pool and put it at her mother's house, I built her a monster swing set and put it at her mother's house, I tried to be there for her mom, too, so she knew I loved her mom even though we had different lives apart from each other and our relationship didn't work - but it wasn't because I hated her mom, we were simply different people.
When people in stores would stop us and tell us how beautiful my little girl was in her stroller, I thought to myself, "yes, they are right. She is beautiful." I am sorry I didn't hold my daughter more, kiss her more and tell her how much I love her more often because even when I was not happy with our relationship for any reason, my unconditional love her her never wained.
When she'd climb on me; I'd be a human slide. I'd lay on the ground and lift her with my legs in the air. When she'd hold my hand as we crossed a street or walked through a parking lot, I was the richest man in the world.
When Jessica laughed and giggled, I also laughed and giggled. When she'd make up songs and sang, I felt so proud of her.
And now no little girl is 21, and she is a woman, and I am still proud of her - oh, I am so proud of her, and I want her to know it - that I am always proud of her and I always miss her and I will always love her unconditionally. And so I have created a list of things from my heart that I want her to know, and know unconditionally:
1. I love you Jessica, unconditionally. I always have and I always will.
2. If you ever need me, no matter how hard you think it is to ask me, I will listen and do my best to be there for you. Sometimes we may have to compromise to make it work into schedules, but I will always try my best to be there when you need me, if I can.
3. I still love your mom and your sister. I cannot tell them that, and they don't want to hear it from me. But if they ever asked me to be there for them, I would also do my very best to be there for them, too.
4. If you are angry with me, I feel it even if I don’t understand it, so talk to me, and I will treat you the same way.
5. When your tone is gentle, I understand what you are saying much better.
6. I had four mothers, but I lost three of them when I was young, and the fourth was not a nurturing mother. I had five sisters, and even more step-sisters and step-brothers, but they all also left me. I have had two wives and many step-children, and they are all no longer in my life. It created in me a patter and I don't always know how to break that pattern, but know that I do not ever want to leave you - that to be there for you and with you is more important to me than I can describe.
7. If you encourage me to find what brings you joy, I will always seek it. There is nothing I want to share with you more.
8. I want you to love art, science, and nature. Your intellect will always matter to me. Your dress size will never matter to me.
9. You may always address me with a strong voice. It will always be acceptable to me.
10. When I get old, I am afraid I will never see you. I am scared that the most important person in the world will avoid me. Please do not forget me.
11. If you ask me to let go, I will pretend to, but I will always remain available; I will always come back if you need me to.
12. I am very vulnerable. Yes, you can hurt me. If I hurt you, I know it sometimes is difficult to tell me, but let me know for there is nothing I want to do to hurt you.
13. If there was anyone who ever believed in you, it is me. I know inside of you there is an artist, a scientist, a politician, a philosopher, a mechanic, a writer, an actress, and a dancer. I have seen them all.
14. Don’t let money be everything, it is not that important. The time I spend with you - every minute, is the most valuable thing I cherish and it is the one thing I can give unconditionally.
15. Hug, hold, and kiss me - those tender moments are the single most valuable thing you can ever give me. I hope you value how much I love kissing and holding you.
16. Please don’t lie, because I believe what you say.
17. Don’t avoid hard conversations, because it makes me believe I’m not worthy of your most difficult thoughts and needs.
It’s pretty simple, really. Daddies love their little girls. I thank the universe every day that I have you in my life, and you hung my moon.
Sometimes I am melancholy and I imagine that I will someday no longer be here and I imagine as my mortal body is leaving this earth; I live in that moment. As I take in that moment there is nothing I did that comes to mind other than I was your father and you were my daughter and I had the opportunity to love unconditionally. I will be able to look back and always say, "I was rich." That is what you gave me.