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A Letter to the Dad I Abandoned When I Was a Teenager

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Even though my father passed away 13 years ago, he’s the person I want to thank today.

My father, Ed, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at about the same time my daughter, Bethany, was in her own raging battle with brain cancer.

As Bethany was cleared to travel, we hightailed it down to my parents’ house. He didn’t have much time left at all. We got there in time to spend his last week with him. I’m so glad we had time to tell him how much we loved him and say our goodbyes.

My father grew up in the twenties and thirties. His mother began living in a state mental institution when he was just 5 years old, so he was raised by a single dad and role model who didn’t pay much attention to him.

Consequently, my dad didn’t pay much attention to me or my siblings as we grew up. He wasn’t a bad  dad; he just didn’t really know how to be a hands-on, involved kind of a dad. I do treasure the memory of him reading the “Peanuts” comics to me every night as a bed time story, though.


As I got a little older, I grew into a rebellious teenager. I indulged in the whole “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” culture. One night, at age 16, I decided to leave home in the middle of the night. I hitchhiked from New Jersey to Seattle.

Four years later, I called my parents and asked if I could come home with my 2-year-old son and another on the way. My parents graciously allowed me to come home. But at first, my father wouldn’t even acknowledge my son. He was rightfully hurt, angry and disappointed with me.

It didn’t take long for my son to melt his heart, though. By the time my second son was born, my dad had forgotten all about being mad at me.

Years passed and my father ended up being a beloved grandpa to ten — eight of whom were my children. He loved to spend time with all of his grandkids. He took them to the movies, the races and to miniature golf.

He loved playing video games with them too.  Surprisingly, He even supported us in our homeschooling efforts by teaching computer programming to the kids on an Atari 800. My dad encouraged and supported all his grandkids in all their endeavors.

So, Grandpa Ed, I want to thank you for forgiving the selfish and self-centered daughter I used to be.  I want to thank you for forgiving me for causing you such horrendous heartache, worry and grief when I left home without a trace so many years ago. I want to thank you for being the best darn grandpa in the world, ever!

For all of November, The Mighty is celebrating the people we don’t thank enough. If you’d like to participate, please submit a thank you note along with a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to

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Originally published: November 20, 2014
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