To the Man I Call My Buddy

Dear Bryan,

As we stop to celebrate the fifty years you’ve been on this planet, I can’t help but focus on the last twenty. While the man whose only real claim to the title ‘dad’ came from giving me half my DNA only stuck around for five years, you’ve made it two decades. You’ve gone through the screaming, the crying, the laughing, and everything in between. You’ve done your best to make me feel better, and you’ve still stuck by me even when nothing you could say would change a thing. There is a good chance I would not be here today without you, and that’s means so much more than just half of someone’s DNA.

So thank you for stepping in when you didn’t have to, for sticking around even when it would have been easier to turn and run.

I do believe there was a text conversation during my first year of university that may have involved a few too many drinks but was still genuine all the same. I tried to explain why I never call you ‘dad’ even though that’s technically what you are. In case it didn’t stick, I’ll explain once more.

Unfortunately, the jackass who came before you, even though he wasn’t around for very long, left a mark on that word. Dad became synonymous with abandonment. It conjured up memories of a grown man leaving adult decisions up to a five year. It became an ugly word that created a pit in my stomach. It made me roll my eyes while also feeling extremely insecure because of something I couldn’t control. Dad matched up with the feelings of fear I had over be left by every person who ever touched my life. Things have shifted as I’ve matured and I’ve become comfortable using that word to reference you to others, especially to those who have never met you. It makes no sense to put step in front of the word any more, and I’m not sure it ever really did. You were the only one who filled the role, that other person never came close.

As the years have gone on and I’ve used the word dad to describe you to anyone and everyone else, I don’t think I’ve once actually called you by that name to your face. Perhaps it is something I should be using but the fact of the matter remains: I just don’t think it does you justice.

You’re the man who stayed home from vacations sometimes but never stopped mom and I from going.

You’re the man who gave up dreams of having his own biological children to father me instead.

You’re the man who accepted that mom called most of the shots because I was her kid first.

You’re the man who took a step back when I needed space, and the one who came rushing right back in when I needed help.

You’re the man who is so much more than just ‘dad’.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: for the most part we don’t get to choose our parents. And I mean, technically mom chose you before I did but in a way I had my choice of fathers. And of course, the choice was obvious. The reason I no longer really think about getting into contact with that other half of my DNA is because I don’t see what purpose he would serve.

After all, I already have a dad.

So happy birthday. We might not talk every day or see each other all the time but I know you’re always there, whether it’s to make me laugh or to listen to my frustrations. I’m lucky to have you in my life, especially since you were not a guarantee. Thank you for stepping up to the plate, I’m not sure where I would be if you hadn’t.

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