As a seventeen year old girl, life can get… well, stressful. To say the least. As teenagers, it is easy to become caught up in a variety of things. With homework, college preparation, new responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and social events like prom, football games, pep rallies, and “the scoop” of the social scene of your school, it has become a lot less difficult to forget about things that have a deeper meaning. My Pastor of my church I attend every Sunday always teaches about how important our relationships our with our family members and others are. He wrote a book recently, and he talks about how young girls that do not have them look for father figures in other men growing up, and how the comfort of a father “watching over” us really impacts our lives. I love my dad, but I had never really thought of it this way until I heard that. It really got me thinking. My dad has always been there for me. He has become more than a caretaker, but my best friend over these many years. When my sister and I were little kids, I can remember running around our little country-bumpkin Georgia backyard with him chasing us and throwing us around in the pool no matter how tired he got. “It’s my turn to surf on your back Daddy!” He never hesitated. I can still remember riding all the cool rides at the amusement parks and no matter how scared I got, I would stay composed because I wanted to be just like him. Fearless. I remember in 2nd grade on the playground when my friends and I would have debates over who had the best dad. “Oh yeah, well my dad could probably lift MY HOUSE. Ha! Take that!” Even when things turned for the worst, he was always there. When I turned eight in 2003, it did just that. My mom had been diagnosed with cancer before I could remember. My whole life with her was spent watching her in the hospital bed and pushing her wheelchair down the tight hardwood hallway. She always wore a small cotton cap to cover her hairless head. Everyone tells me still to this day I am just like her. Not to mention a spitting image. I cannot remember much else about her. But she was my mom, and I loved her. One day in June the next summer, my dad picked up my sister Heather and I from a friend of ours who lived on the lake. It had been a great day. Tubing, swimming, and playing all day. An eight year old’s dream, right? After he picked us up, he didn’t say much on the way home. And when he stopped at a random house that was for sale on our street, I knew that something was wrong. He walked us into the garage and sat down. Before he could even say anything, we both knew what was going on. My mom had passed away just that morning. I remember that day like it was yesterday. We sat for what seemed like forever and embraced each other’s tears with full force. Nothing in that moment made sense to me. How could this happen to an eight year old? What did I do to deserve this? My life would never be the same. I can still recall her funeral, the food people brought, the endless company in our small home, every tear, every “I’m so sorry,” every hug, and the daze that passed over all of us in those next few weeks. When I think back about those times, I always seem to forget my father’s role in the equation. He stepped up to be the best father he could be. I remember him cleaning our rooms, making us food, helping us get ready for school, and even doing things to the extent of drying our hair for us when we couldn’t reach the back. It makes me smile now as I remember one time when my sister and I walked back to our playroom and peeked around the corner and saw him playing with our Barbies while cleaning up the room. I didn’t even realize then just how much he loved me. It is incredible to think about the hardships he must have gone through during those times while having a full time job and taking care of two growing girls and a very sick wife. All this time I have been taking that for granted. He could have given up, but he didn’t. He pushed through and found the courage to make a better life for his kids. I am humbled just by thinking about it almost nine years later. When things started to get back up to a regular schedule, I remember my dad introducing us to a woman by the name of Tanya. “Hello beautiful! Your dad has told me tons about you.” She had me at hello. I was sold. I latched on to Tanya like a rat on a cheeto. I missed having a motherly figure to talk to and to look up to. I remember going to her house for the first time and meeting her dog, a pomeranian named Doodle. I was in love. I had been wanting another pet for the longest time. Where did this Goddess come from?! From then on, I loved her as my own mother with all my heart. I wouldn’t change anything or have it any other way. I think about my dad again. He brought this woman into our lives by the grace of God. Without her, our lives would be vastly different than they are now. Eventually, my dad and Tanya got married, and things began to change. A new house, a new town, new people, a new family. It was exciting, but overwhelming at the same time. How would this be different from the way things used to be? No matter what the circumstance, my dad continued to be there with me through thick and thin. No, no families are perfect, and there are going to be tough times. But none of that matters because I have the best family that loves me no matter what. Even now, my dad is still by my side. Through all the times I have dissappointed him, through all the laughs, the jokes, the 80’s music pow-wows, the birthdays, the holidays, the trials, and everything in between, he never stopped expelling his unconditional love for me. His legacy will remain instilled in me and I will pass all I have learned from him on to my own children one day. I don’t know what I would do without him. He is truly my hero and an influence that will no longer be taken for granted. I now understand and it truly saddens me that not everyone can have the priveledge of a father like mine. I love you, Daddy. And I will always be Daddy’s little girl.