My adoptive dad is my dad. He knows that. I know that. But I guess sometimes there can be some confusion in the world of adoption, because you always seem to have to clarify whom you’re talking about. It’s complicated, but then again, not so much. So here’s what I want to say to my (adoptive) dad on Father’s Day.

Dear Dad,

Thank you for all you have done for me over the course of my 45 years. I have learned so much from you, not just from your words, but also from your actions and your character.

I think there’s an important distinction between the word “father” and the word “dad.” To me, the word father is about biology, while the word dad is about being an active participant as a parent. So while I have been interested in pursuing information about my biological roots, and I have contacted my biological father and have even yearned for a relationship with him to some degree, there is nobody that could ever replace you as my dad.

I remember growing up and some of my closest friends telling me how cool you were. They felt like you paid attention to them, asked them about their interests, were easy to talk to. I remember being proud. “That’s my dad,” I would think, not really feeling the same way about their dads. It wasn’t like there was anything wrong with their dads, but they didn’t give me that same feeling that was being described to me about mine.

We went through some difficult times as I was growing up. Some things that happened to me that made my childhood particularly difficult were beyond your control, and you didn’t even become aware of them until many years later. But when you finally found out, you were there for me, as supportive as anyone could ever ask of a dad.

So now, as I raise my own children, I look to emulate your spirit, your genuineness, your sincerity, and your gentleness. You are a man who does not hide under a façade of machismo. You don’t need to. Your confidence and sense of security as a provider, a husband, a dad, a grandpa, and a friend is enough. In fact, it’s much more than enough. It’s what every man should strive to be.

I hope you enjoy this Father’s Day and many more, realizing what a great dad you are. I am not often comfortable enough with a spoken word to express this type of gratitude for being your son that I admittedly take for granted. So I will express it with my strength, this written word, which will remain etched in print for all to see. That’s the way I want it, anyway.

Much love from your adoptive son,

Tom