Dear dad,

We may not share the same blood or DNA, but that’s never mattered. From the moment you walked into my life, you were always “dad.” The term stepdad could never do you justice. It would be unnatural and, in many ways, insulting to use. After all, you’ve spent the last 18 years playing one of the main roles in my life.

Dad, I’m sorry. Growing up, I didn’t realize just how great a sacrifice you made. For that matter, I didn’t understand that it takes a special person to walk into a family and love that family as their own. You sacrificed starting your own family in order to raise Jordan and me, and I can’t begin to comprehend the selflessness that came with that decision.

As I write this, I’m looking back on all the big moments in my life and all that I’ve accomplished, and I can honestly say that you were always right there cheering for me. You were, and continue to be, my biggest supporter.

When I decided I wanted to be a tennis player, you bought me the gear I needed and even went out on the courts with me on summer mornings to help me learn the game.

When I left tennis for theatre, you were there at every performance.

When I toured colleges, you were there at each visit to show me the pros and cons of each university. And when we got to Baylor, I remember you leaning over to say, “I think this is where you’re going.” You weren’t wrong.

I remember how I acted toward you in my teen years and let me tell you something, I feel a bit regretful. I took you for granted. I seemed to forget that you had no obligation to help raise my brother and me. You could’ve walked away before ever marrying mom, but you did just the opposite. You went all in.

You wanted to be a part of our family and to take care of us and watch us grow. You made so many sacrifices for us and for that I am eternally grateful for you.

Once I made it to college I started realizing how much you did for us and how much you meant to me. During my freshman year, there were many times I found myself saying, “Dad was right.” By junior year I was more open with you. I started calling you for advice and appreciating all the wisdom you had to offer.

I used to think I didn’t need your advice.

It took me almost 20 years to realize just how wrong I was.

Today, I’m always happy when I have the chance to sit down and talk with you. Whether we’re talking about relationship advice, politics or sports, I am always guaranteed to have a better day after hearing from you. When I go home to visit, singing along in the car with you to the newest pop songs or even dealing with you trying to embarrass me by following me through clothing shops talking like a valley girl, (Don’t try to deny it)  are the highlights of my visit.

So thank you for all the hugs, for all the advice and long talks, for your endless support, for cutting my hair, for the huge box full of Halloween costumes from work, for turning on cartoons on weekend mornings, for teaching me what it means to respect myself and love others unconditionally and for always helping me see the bigger picture in life.

Most of all, thank you for walking into all of our lives and never leaving. You made a choice, a great sacrifice for us all, and I can never thank you enough for all you have done and continue to do. I hope you always know that you’re such a big part of my world. You’re my dad, my friend, my mentor and I love you so much.