As I sit in a room two continents away, surrounded by clothes and books and pretty things, all bought with money provided by you, five years into a degree funded by you, I type away this letter.
Dear Father, two days ago you laughed when I excitedly showed you a photo of a thirty-five-bedroom castle and said that one day I will buy it, and you told me that at my age you had stopped having those grandiose dreams. Let me tell you a different story. Nineteen years ago, you pulled a drawer out of your wardrobe, to reveal a drawer behind it, and within this drawer was a single item: an old, ornate, large iron key. You told me it was the key to the gates of your Castle in Spain. Only years later did I learn that in French, "castle in Spain" means castle in the air.
Thanks to a man who never stopped dreaming... but who put his dreams aside to help his daughter make hers come true, today, I can dream.
Dear Father, when they ask me if I have a role model, I name you. You may be grumpy and stubborn, and you did give me the dandruff gene (and the gangly knee gene), but when I think of you, it is your big, boyish grin that I remember, whenever you look in the direction of your children and smile. It is your dimples and the way your eyes disappear behind your smile. It is your great heart and the sacrifices you have never stopped making. It is your unselfishness, and the way you have uncomplainingly driven me to tuitions and sometimes waited an hour for a teacher to finish a class. It is your generosity and your refusal to charge people money they cannot afford in exchange for their health. (It is not so much your terrible, distressing way of buying extravagant gifts for your children - you need to spoil them less!)
Dear Father, if there is one story about you that I want the world to know, it is the story of how you sent your only daughter to England to study medicine. It is the story of how, even though she came short of winning a scholarship, and we didn't have the money for her to go abroad, you watched as she applied to the whole wide world to do medicine, and when three out of four of her UK applications came back as offers, you told her to accept one of them, and you committed yourself to something you knew was impossible. Dear Father, today you've pulled off the impossible, and I don't even know how you did it, because you refuse to tell me. Dear Father, today, as I prepare for my final exam, after five years of watching you make that yearly hefty payment for my tuition fees... today, all my dreams are coming true, and it is thanks to your sacrifices. The world assumes you are rich because you put all three of your children through university in the UK, but the world does not know that what you are rich in is hard work and sacrifice - the magnitude of which is grandiose in its impossibility.
Dear Father, I want to thank you for bringing your only daughter up as a princess and as a son. You gave me pretty dresses and you gave me a thorough education. You taught me to be independent and dependable. You bought me stamps and first day covers. You taught me how to use the Olympus OM-2 and how to drive a car. Now we fight over who gets to drive the long journeys, and after dinner we fight over who gets to wash the dishes (I need to learn some martial arts to win those fights), because we are so similar we enjoy doing the same things and hate the same things (oh, drying dishes, how we hate you).
Dear Father, even though sometimes you've shouted at me when my younger brother hits me, I know you are on my side, because I will never forget that time when I was seventeen and he removed the aerial from the TV so that I could not use the TV anymore, and you sneaked to my room and smuggled a spare aerial to me. I never dared use it because I didn't want him to realise you were helping me, but I treasured that aerial and it's still tucked away in my desk drawer next to my bank cards and my ID card.
Dear Father, I am profoundly grateful and proud to be your daughter (even if this means I have your Campbell de Morgan spots). I imagine that perhaps when God decided who should be born as your daughter, it could have been any one of a million girls, and although I feel a bit sorry that they didn't draw the lucky straw... I am grateful that God chose me. Even though we've had our ups and downs because of how ridiculously like you I am, I'm glad to be your daughter.
Thank you, with love,
From the apple of your eye.