I have six kids and I don’t play favorites, but I can identify how each child has changed me and made me a better person. This is about Belle and how she made me the man I am today.
She was born November 19, 2002. It was an awkward time in my life of trying to hold on to the dream of being a baseball player, an almost impossible dream, and knowing she would be coming into this world soon. I was eight states away and she was going to be without her father at the moment of her birth.
Her mother and I weren’t together and our only communication was for Belle’s benefit.
She called me from the hospital the day after she was born, but it would be another two weeks before I could gather the money for a plane ticket to see my baby girl.
Unfortunately, when I first saw her she was back in the hospital due to an infection.
She had all kinds of wires attached to her and was dehydrated and needed fluid. When the nurse missed six times trying to find a vein for an IV, I was furious.
I didn’t understand what came over me. Her mother asked me to leave the room when she saw I was getting angry. She was right; I wanted to punch everyone in the room. I barely knew this little girl, but I was willing to give my life for her. It didn’t really hit me before, it wasn’t until I saw her with my own eyes that something changed in me.
I reflected on my life and what I was doing. I was playing baseball in Kentucky holding onto a dream I knew was far beyond my grasp at that time. Like a fighter still trying to be a champ one day, but knowing he is too far past his prime. I had to let go, but couldn’t. I knew she needed a Daddy to do dad shit, but I was 21 years old and self-absorbed. But when I held her, when I finally kissed her forehead, I knew life would never be the same.
They say kids change you and I can say I didn’t really think it would, or felt that I needed to change at that time, but I was wrong. From the moment we met, I knew I had to protect her.
She was released from the hospital and her mom let me take Isabella home for a few days. It was amazing and hell all in one big bundle of stress and love. It was in those few days that I first understood how important it was that I needed to be a better man. I needed to be great for her because that’s what she deserved.
This little girl being born was essentially the beginning of the man you see today. My daughter Isabella is the foundation for me becoming a real man. She was beautiful, delicate, and smart, and everything I wasn’t. At two years old she could speak in complete sentences. She said “Thank you” and “Please” for everything. The sweetest little girl I had ever met. She was bald until she was almost 3 years old, we had to tape a bow to her head and dress her in pink so people wouldn’t call her a boy.
I was forced out of College due to academic ineligibility and decided my next move was the Military. I knew two things: my baby girl needed money and I needed to grow up. I joined the Infantry fully knowing the potential to be thrown into combat, but that didn’t worry me. If the unfortunate happened and I didn’t make it back alive, my baby would have 400k in the bank and a father who was a hero.
I can honestly tell you that’s how I was thinking during those times. I didn’t think highly of myself, I only knew one thing my whole life and it was Baseball, so I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be good at the Military.
But in every course and every mission she was on my mind. I would think about how proud of me she would be. I would envision her clapping while I crossed an imaginary stage and I could see her eyes and that she was so proud of her father. That thought would always bring a smile to my face. My motivation was to see her smile with pride because ‘Big Papi’ is her father.
I missed birthdays, her ballet recitals, when she skinned her knees, and the checking for monsters under her bed. Years of going on deployments didn’t change how I felt about her; I still had nothing but love for this little girl, she was my heart and soul, the reason for always trying to be the best.
She is 13 years old going on 20. We talk about all the awkward subjects like boys, religion, and life. I do everything I can to be the most truthful person in her world. I hold no punches in any subject, no matter how crazy the question is. Our relationship has blossomed into something any father would strive for.
I can see the true love for me in her eyes and respect for the way I provide for her and her siblings, and the sacrifices I have made to give her the childhood she deserves. She is a natural leader, a kind nurturer, and she even delegates the chores to her younger brothers and sisters.
For all the years I was gone, for all those important days I missed and can never get back, for not being there to tuck you in at night and tell you a story and for it taking so many years for you to really know me, and for how long it took me to make you laugh like I know you deserved to, I am sorry.
Thank you for giving me another chance when I came home for good. Thank you for being the reason I am what I am today, for being your dad. To my sweet angel Belle, if not for you I would have never made it, I would have never grown up.
Belle, you are the foundation of this family, you brought out the best in your daddy at a time I needed the more push… you weren’t big enough to know this and maybe I have never told you. But thank you for making your daddy feel super natural knowing you were who I would get to come home to… knowing you are the reason I put myself through so much pain. It’s been an honor to watch you grow into the amazing little woman you are today. Thank you for everything! I hope I have done enough as a father and provider.