An Open Letter to the Dad Who Left Me and the Dad Who Kept Me

An open letter to the dad who left me, and the dad who loved me.

Open Letter To the Dad Who Left Me,

It’s amazing how memories fade at different paces. It has been 25 years since I’ve seen your face, but I remember it so clearly. It’s the face that built my dreams and broke my heart.

I can’t remember where I put my car keys yesterday, but I can remember your strong arms. I can still see the way you wore your plaid work shirts with the sleeves rolled up to your elbows. I can almost feel the wind on my face as you spun me around and around. Those arms were stronger than anything else in the whole world– except for maybe my doubts.

I can’t remember to take the trash out, but I can remember the sound of your laughter. It took up the whole room. I remember the way you slipped your arm around Mom’s waist, and you two laughed together. Your laugh was powerful that way. It made all of us come alive.

But it had the power to leave us feeling empty, too. Slowly, laughter morphed into yelling. You started going away for evenings that turned into days, and then days turned into weeks. The yelling ended and it was replaced with silence. That was the hardest part.

I forget so many things in my day-to-day life, but I will never forget watching you drive away for the last time…

Years have passed since I’ve seen you, but you never really left. Your shadow has stayed with me. Your absence burned a hole in me—one that hasn’t fully closed, even after all this time. I see you sometimes; when my son smiles, I see your dimples. When my daughter cries, I see your frown. You hide in the shadows, and I catch glimpses of you when I least expect it.

When you left, you set into motion a domino effect. You made 10,000 decisions on the day you drove away. You decided I would never go to a daddy-daughter dance. You decided I would never see a husband serve his wife. You decided that I should have to fill your shoes when Mom needed someone to lean on.

You tied my hands in countless ways. You set my feet on a path, and I was forced to walk it. There were thousands of things I could not decide, but there is one thing I can choose: forgiveness.

With this open letter, I choose to forgive you because doing so empowers me. I choose to forgive you because you took so much away from me, and I’m reclaiming my voice. With this open letter, I choose to forgive you because the alternative is bitterness, and we all know that bitterness is poison.

I forgive you, Dad. And with this open letter, I’m releasing you.

Open Letter To the Dad Who Loved Me,

You weren’t the first man I called by that name. But you were the first one to earn it.

I remember the night when we first met. Mom invited you over for dinner. You cracked jokes at the dinner table and put a phone book beneath me when I couldn’t reach my plate. You played horsey on the floor with my little brother. You lit the spark in my mom’s eyes.

Mia Mauss
Mia Mauss
Mia Mauss is a veteran writer and editor. She’s a dabbler, coffee guzzler, and a dangler of modifiers. She does not attempt Pinterest crafts.
Mia is married to a writer-turned-pastor who never picks his socks up off the floor no matter how many times he is asked. Together, they enjoy answering the endless litany of “whys” asked by her three impish children. Mia sometimes dusts off the blog at, where she writes about herself in the third person.

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