To Dad on Your Birthday

so much teeth!
I totally don’t even know how old you are….  But that’s okay because you probably don’t know how old I am either, hahaha.  But I guess age doesn’t matter much in eternal families.

You’ve had quite the life.  You’ve excelled in every earthly endeavor you’ve pursued.  You lead and influence hundreds of thousands of people because of your career.  But I’m not writing to that person today.  I’m writing to the raw you–to who you were at home, raising us, where your career didn’t matter, where your worldly accomplishments never came up.  To this day I don’t even know what kind of lawyer you were…  Because when you were home, it was family time.  And we were best friends.  We’d talk about feelings and Jesus and tennis and learn how to have social skills by having to give one-minute impromptu speeches about any topic you’d give us, and where we’d roll-play social interactions so we knew how to communicate with older people and not just stare at them like other kids would when they were asked how they were doing.  I’m writing to the father, teacher, and friend that I only ever knew you as.

There is only one man on this good earth that I respect as much as you, and the reason I married him is because I knew he would lead my family the way you have lead yours.  Growing up I was always able to trust that you would do the right thing with your radical integrity, that you would never waiver in your devotion to God and Mom, and that you would teach me how to be a good person for Heavenly Father, others, and myself.  Your quiet dignity never left you unapproachable, and I always knew you were my friend.  I hung on every word you said whenever I went to you with a broken heart or disappointed spirit.  My heart sung when you laughed at any of my jokes.  Because if you laughed then I really knew I was funny.  You’d always at least smile, but a good belly-laugh from you was like a high-five to my heart and soul.  Mom laughs at everything, so it didn’t mean as much if it was coming just from her.

You took me on a daddy-daughter date my junior year of high school the night of Homecoming when I didn’t get asked to the dance.  We went and saw Madonna in Evita and you couldn’t stop saying how much better of a singer you thought I was than her.  That date meant so much to me.

I don’t think you missed a single tennis match in my whole tennis career, even though I know it must have been physically painful for you to see me lose my temper and start swearing and throwing my racket when I was losing.  Which wasn’t that often, thankfully:).  Hopefully I’ve given you other reasons to be proud to have me as your daughter….

You initiated my love for the scriptures when you made me the family Scripture Chair when I was, like, 10 or something, and put in me charge of memorizing the over-300 scripture references on the D. Family Scripture List.  You made memorizing scriptures fun by having a family competition each week to see who memorized the most by using your association-memorizing technique.  You’d say things like, “Jess, I bet you’re the only ten-year-old in the entire world who knows 179 scriptures.”  That made me feel amazing.

And I’ll never forget acting out the Book of Mormon and going to that park to film those iron rod/great and spacious building scenes.  That was one of the greatest parts of my childhood–acting out the Book of Mormon with the script you had written.  What father does that for his children?! Thank you so much for that gift.  I’ll never forget Andee’s portrayal of the angel who told Nephi he had to kill Laban…

Because of you I was the only kid in elementary school who knew who Jonas Salk and Loa Tzu were.  You made learning fun with D. University.  And to this day no one gets my Shakespeare references… Their humor isn’t sophisticated enough, I guess.  Oh well, at least we have each other to laugh together.

You have taught me by example that no matter what anyone has done to you, you are never — EVER — allowed to hate them.  You have a unique application of True Charity that has inspired me to believe in people and see them as Heavenly Father sees them.  To love them and serve them and build them up to their Savior.  To give them the benefit of the doubt and to judge them mercifully.  Thank you for your example of that.  It has liberated me in many ways.

I love writing in my journal because of you.  When we were kids you’d have us write in our journals for 15 minutes as a family every Sunday evening.  You may not know this, but you helped me see value in recording and expressing my feelings–because you always validated mine.  You always let me be me, but helped me see who I could become.  You gave me the personal motto of “Be Slow To Take Offense,”  and for the longest time I didn’t even know what that meant.  But those words were my world because you gave them to me.  And as soon as I figured out what they meant, I tried to live by it.  But you said yourself I was the toughest kid to raise:). Yes I was overdramatic, hyperactive, and demanding, but you helped me calm myself over the years and see what’s really important and choose to have power over my reactions.  You helped me become a woman.

You started a matchbox collection with me when I was just a little kid.  Whenever you had to travel because of work, you’d always bring me back some matchboxes from the different restaurants you’d go to out of state.  I would get so excited to add to my collection.  Those matchboxes were so special to me.  You taught me to see value in things the world places little value in.

You taught me that when you are feeling sick, the best place to be is at church {as long as you’re not contagious:)}.  I don’t recall a single Sunday when you weren’t at church, even when you were feeling sick.  I remember as a young teen I would pray harder than I can express to have some of your pain and sickness so that you could have more strength.  I would weep as I knelt at my bedside, pleading with the Lord to give it to me and to take it from you.  I would pause after my prayers to see if I felt anything, and if I felt the slightest cramp or sting or ache I would weep harder, for gratitude, knowing that Heavenly Father was hearing my prayer. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that.  I’m thankful every day that The Lord has made you whole.  I know He answers prayers, because He has answered mine.

You never missed a performance of mine, even if it meant having cafeteria chicken cordon bleu four nights in a row.  You took my talents seriously and made me feel like a star.

Oh dad, where do I stop?  There were hustle bucks, home videos, star-gazing forts, weed pickings, trips in the Motor Home, spotless zone reorganizations, Mahalia Jackson sing-offs, Sunday family walks, ski lessons, books on tape, bedtime stories where we were the heros but you’d disguise our names by switching the first letters of our first and middle names {I was Messica Jckay}–or the ones about the young Indian Brave Falling Rock with his father, Chief Slippery When Wet–lessons on trees and birds, stories from your childhood of troll dolls and tornados… But never a spanking or a threat or a harsh tone.  You were ever gentle, loving, respectable, righteous, dignified, and ours.

To Dad on your birthday.  I love you.  You are what fathers are meant to be.  Loyal.  Supportive.  Constant.  Teaching.  Kind.  My respect and admiration for you reaches beyond the confines of verbal expression.  Thank you.  Thank you for the life you have given me, and for the foundation of Truth and Trust and Love that you taught.  Happy birthday to you!  But know that you are the gift to us.


  1. Erin says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a more poignant tribute to a father. A love note from you to your Dad is worth more than any earthly thing! It is a rare thing to have a father as good as yours. My dream is that John William will be as good a father to little baby James. So many of the qualities we love about you Jessi, came from your parents. We are so grateful to them!

  2. CKE says:

    That was beautiful! It makes me so happy to read about healthy relationships between parents and children, especially in these times. Your pop sounds like a rare and great man. It gives me even more motivation to TRY really HARD to learn to BE all of those things for my children. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    To my dear angel,
    Your tribute to me was, far and away, the most precious birthday gift I have ever received. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I could not begin to describe how much I love you.

  4. Bliss says:

    Ok Ok I may or may not be tearing up a little right now. You’ve got quite the way with words. I hope that I can be the kind of mother that your father is for my kids. Thanks for sharing your love for your dad. It’s inspiring. 🙂

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