Read one woman's heartfelt letter to her father, an addict, on Father's Day.

I never thought I’d get a wedding dance with my alcoholic father. But after more than 20 years, I’m letting myself dream.

Dear Dad,

Lately, I’ve felt like Katherine Heigl in "27 Dresses" — closets overflowing with bridesmaids dresses, and weddings every month.

But as I stand next to my best friends at their weddings, I’m rarely watching the bride. Instead, I love to watch the father of the bride walk his little girl down the aisle to give her away.


Honestly, Dad, for so many years I wasn’t sure we would ever have that moment together.

Growing up as the daughter of an addict, I felt too afraid to invite you to big events because I thought you’d show up three sheets to the wind and forget the alphabet.

Me and my dad. All photos here from me, used with permission.

In that moment when everyone stands on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the bride and her father, I used to hold my breath and sometimes turn away.

Like turning my head when a nurse draws blood, I couldn’t stomach watching their pure joy. I guess it’s pretty textbook “Alcoholic Father,” but I pictured you divorced and passed out on a couch in some crappy apartment with an address I would refuse to write on an invitation. In my imagination, I would resort to walking myself down the aisle. Alone.

Now that you’re sober, I like to watch those dads walk their daughters down the aisle because I know we will have our moment.

I know you’ll be there. I cry when I watch my friends dance with their “Daddy” in the father-daughter dance, but mostly I smile with the excited kind of butterflies. I can’t wait for our dance.

For so long, I never let myself dream of you sober on my wedding day, but now I can give myself permission.

You’ll hold me close and whisper something in my ear like, “You’ll always be my little girl” before we swallow those lumps and embrace the ugly cry.

You’ll lift my lacy white veil from my face and kiss me goodbye. We will dance to our song, "Butterfly Kisses," and I’ll get to remind you of how proud I am — how proud I am that all of you will be there to give me away on my big day.

I know it’s usually the father saying to his daughter, “I’m so proud of who you’ve become.”

But, on Father’s Day this year, and at my wedding someday, I’ll say it to you: Dad, I’m so proud of the man you’ve become. You’ve devoted your entire life to recovery. You fought to keep your family. You showed us the strength and determination we knew you had buried inside of you.

Please forgive me for taking a while to learn how to trust you again.

I’ve never known this kind of love that drives out fear. For a lot of years, I couldn’t come to you for advice or help, and it might take some time to accept this joy that steals my heart away.

Every night, I pray that your sobriety will stick around. I know it’s an ongoing journey that we’ll both keep stumbling down. There are a lot of people out there who are going through the same struggle.

Let’s show the people still stuck in the darkest pits of addiction that there’s actually hope for a beautiful future. We know it isn’t easy, but it’s possible.

There’s something else I want to say, before the day is done: I’m sorry, Dad.

I’m sorry for all the years that I wished Mom would just sign those divorce papers. I even wrote a book called “Closing the Door.” But I just didn’t see any way out.

It felt like life played some kind of sick "Groundhog Day" joke where we kept waking up to the same dark day over and over again. I forgot how to breathe.

Somehow, we all stuck together as a family and learned, eventually, how to set a dinner table for four.

So when the time comes for you to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, I’m thankful you’ll get to sit with Mom in the front row.

You’ve taught me what true love looks like, fighting through all the fumbling and touchdown moments of marriage.

You’ve shown me exactly what it means to uphold your wedding vows: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I vow to keep learning to love you through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful moments of being your daughter. And I can’t wait for that DJ to announce: “Please turn your attention to the center of the dance floor. The bride and her father will now have their special dance.”

Love always,

Ashley

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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