My daughter. What can I say about her that even comes close to how I feel? I know I will fall short of the tribute she deserves. For this, I’m sorry.
Happy Birthday, Kari! We love you so, so much. You bring so much joy to our lives. You make us proud. I don’t know how we got this lucky to have you as our daughter. We hit the jackpot the day you were born. It was a day exactly like today, the sky as blue as cobalt.
Your my inspiration. Yeah, I know you’ve heard this from me before… but you need to hear it again. And again. And again.
I look to you and see a young lady who sacrificed so much for the love of family. Your beauty is both inside and out… it’s in your very essence. Your loyalty and love toward us can never be questioned. I’m sorry you were put through this tragedy. It’s just not fair.
Kari has always amazed me. From the beginning, two decades ago, she would do things that just made me shake my head in astonishment. I suppose I might be the proudest father in the world… well, no one could be prouder.
In all the chaos of the last 21 months, she has been my rock. She has comforted me, cried with me, laughed with me, and scolded me. What would I be without her?
You know, throughout this entire ordeal she has NEVER acted in a selfish way. Never. She grew up much too fast during this time. Vantrease and May robbed her of her senior year in high school, as she spent months upon months right next to Ryan’s hospital bed. She would read him every Facebook post. She would stretch him, give him different things to taste, brush his teeth, hug him, talk to him, and nurture him. She never complained. Not once. Hell, before she even turned 19 years old, she was helping us make life and death decisions.
She walked graduation without me there to cheer her on. I watched her over an internet video feed get her diploma as I sat with Ryan in rehab in New Jersey. I missed her prom photos. She quit lacrosse, a game she loved, because of (and in defense of) Ryan. We worked on her assignments, every day, in the hospital. Once a week we would attach everything to an email and send it to the school.
Kari held my hand throughout the entire criminal trial. I could see the pure disgust and disdain as she looked at Vantrease and May (and their pathetic families). There is no question she understood the special bond we have as a family after seeing how dysfunctional and aggressive families behave and look. Yes, she could likely see a life of anger and aggression permanently etched into their scowling faces.
The trial was taking a toll on me. I had to keep multiple boxes of tissues in my lap to both wipe my eyes and pinch off the nose bleeds that would not stop. She never had to say it, but I could feel her telling me “we got this. No matter what, we got this”. She wouldn’t leave my side (and, truth be told, I didn’t want her too). I’d feel guilty putting this burden on any teenager, let alone my only daughter. But, I was helpless to stop. I needed her, and she was there for me. She’s always there for me.
Yes, Kari, you are no doubt a women now. Lovely in every way. Grown up… so damn hard to believe. Yet, no matter what, you will always be my little girl.