A letter to my best friend—my father
Gigglers, remember last December when we asked for your stories of best friendship for our Tale of Two Besties contest? Well, we’re super excited to announce the finalists and grand prize winner. We’ll be counting down our runner-up besties stories, and on February 18th will announce the winner—plus reveal the ‘A Tale of Two Besties‘ cover! Check out Aiden Strawhun’s story below.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in life is that I’m only human. There are so many things that I’m capable of. I can hold up an entire world of hurt. I can pick up my pieces. I can move on without a goodbye. I can still smile anyway.
Even so, I’m not without weakness.
I have very thin skin. I cry too much. I don’t really understand “family.” I’m afraid of everything. But that’s the beautiful thing about being human. Our weakness, our struggles—they only lead us to better places. They show us why it’s important to keep moving and loving, even if we think we can’t. Sure, we’ll all come to an end someday, but why can’t our lives in the short time we have here be special?
Three years ago, I wouldn’t have known that. Three years ago, I was in an incredibly dark place that I didn’t know I could escape. Three years ago, I was so full of hatred and resentment of everyone and everything in my life, including myself, that I could have easily given up on it. But I didn’t; you wouldn’t let me.
I grew up without truly knowing you. Due to the bad blood your divorce with my mother caused, you were kept out of my life for fourteen years. Not only this, but because of the lies I was fed, I was convinced you were the most abhorrent creature to ever face the Earth. For most of my life, until I was sixteen, I never once wanted to give you a chance because I, too, harbored the same hatred for you as my mother. To her, you were a liar, a cheater, a manipulator—every name under the sun. Because I was a child and didn’t know any better, I believed every word.
In the end, I don’t know why I finally gave into you. Growing up, I tried to put up walls against you and push you away. I tried with everything I had to hate you, to detest your very existence. But, I just couldn’t. Maybe it was because I was envious of the family you’d created. Maybe I admired it. Maybe I just wanted it for myself. In reality, I gave into my own selfish desires for love and familial intimacy. I wasn’t thinking of living for anyone else at that time—I was living for me.
So, just like that, I jumped off the cliff of my past, hoping I’d fall into your loving arms. I threw away fourteen years of friends and priceless memories just to be with you and your family. I didn’t know any of you, but you still took me in and treated me like I’d been there forever; I don’t know if you’ll ever understand what it all meant to me. And honestly, I’ll never forget the day I did. You actually let me cry; when I was little, you never did. You held me in your arms, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt really, truly loved.
You gave me freedom and hope in a brand new life; a life that I’d never been allowed before. I could wear normal clothes, and eat real meals, and you even helped me with my homework when I needed you to. You supported my dreams of becoming a writer and translated all of my confusing scrawl of poetry, and stories, and imagination. You helped me win my accolades in high school and let me bounce ideas off of you. And the best part of it all was, you didn’t approach me as my father. You came to me as my friend.
I never truly realized until recently just how hard you tried, though. Through my whole life, you fought endlessly for my brother and me, and I never even noticed. When you finally explained just how important I was, I didn’t really understand. You told me that Gaelic traditions spoke of three children. The first was the child of pride, the second was the child of hope, and the third, the child of love; I was the second. I was the first girl in your family for four generations, and that made your father giddy with happiness. Sadly, I never really knew him; I only wish I did.
Eventually, I thought about it. It took me a while, but I figured out just why I am so important to you, as the second child, as your child. My full name means, “Little fiery child of hope never fears, but is cautious.” I’m really not just, “Aiden.” I’m really not just a name to be ridiculed and confused for masculinity—I’m much more.
You described me perfectly before either of us even knew who I’d become.
Just know that I’m thankful for what you’ve done. You’re a real hero—not because you’re “Superhero Dad” and save me from elevators—but because you saved my life. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t moved in with you, and I highly doubt I’d be as successful as I am today. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be getting a better education right now because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it without you. I probably would have stayed inside my shell in that dark and lonely place. I don’t think I would have been very healthy.
To be frank, I know I haven’t always been the best daughter or sister. I know I’ve made my mistakes. And that’s okay. Life is full of mistakes and of pain. Things happen, we bleed when we fall; and it’s okay to be broken. That’s what we have love for. The idea of family scares me because I never really had one. All I know is, you’ve made me feel like I’m a part of yours, of ours. You’ve made me feel like I finally belong somewhere and that I can do things right. Through you, I’ve become proud of myself; and I hope you are proud of me, too.
But please don’t ever forget we’re only human. I will keep making mistakes. I will keep disappointing you and hurting you. I have bumps and bruises, and that’s okay. There’s only so much in life that we can take and it’s okay to take a break—take time to breathe, take a day off work. Don’t miss out on the life you’re able to have now because you weren’t allowed in mine.
Be patient with me—I will take a lifetime to heal from my wounds. Don’t be mad when I tell you the truth; instead, help me better myself. Fighting only makes things worse for everyone in the end, so reason rather than yell. Don’t forget, I’m scared of everything. No one can hurt me more than you, so one hint of disappointment and I’m shaking. I know it seems childish, but it’s all I really know.
I’m no longer a child; I’m a young woman starting her life. I know you may think I’m helpless sometimes, but I’m really not. I can take care of myself and watch out for ones in need. You don’t see that side of me often, but I’m actually very kind. And just because I’m scared of something, doesn’t mean I’ll quit. I’ve become painfully shy these past few years, but I’m still fighting for the life I want to live.
I’m not going to be afraid any more. I’m not going to be afraid of hurting you or even making you happy. I’m going to speak my mind now more than ever, and you’re not going to forget a thing. You will know when I’m hurting, and you will know when I’m happy, because you’re my best friend. And like the rest of my friends see me, you should know the real me, too—as a human, with every beautiful flaw and scar.
Your Child of Hope
This essay was written by Aiden Strawhun.