Bailey Gebhart

Bailey Gebhart

This letter will contain a few words that I don’t think most people would expect me to say: thank you dad. Thank you for not being there when I was growing up. Thank you for letting my mom raise me herself. If you had been there, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I would not be able to truly appreciate the words ‘independent woman’ because in your absence that is who I was raised by. Thank you for not being there when I was five and she had to handle my temper tantrums out in public; I got to see her strength. Thank you for not being there when we were having money troubles and didn’t know if we could afford gas. She showed me what determination and a good work ethic can accomplish. Thanks for not being there when I was getting bullied so badly I didn’t want to go to school; she took the opportunity to teach me resilience. Thanks for not being there to support me, because I got to see the power of the strong support system my mom had built for herself.

Mom, thank you doesn’t even begin to express the gratitude I feel towards you, but then again no combination of words or letters ever will. There has not once been a day that I don’t feel your unconditional support and love. You had to put up with a lot while raising me, and I know that sometimes it was a challenge. As I grow older I am beginning to see some of the sacrifices you have made for me over the years although I understand that I may never see the full picture. You have wanted the best for me since the day I was born, pushing me towards reaching my full potential, and I’m aware it caused us to bump heads on occasion. You have been my strength when I didn’t think I had any left, and you always made sure to pick me up and dust me off so that next time I would be ready to take life on myself.

You sent me to college, mom, I didn’t even know what I wanted to do but you encouraged me to go. I had one of the best and worst years of my life that year, and you were only a phone call away or a short 4 hour drive that we made all too often. I was actively involved in basketball for 10 years because you were the most supportive parent. You may not have understood the game very well but I could hear you cheering. Remember the time you got interviewed for the news because I hit a last minute shot at an important game and you started screaming “THAT’S MY KID!”? I can count on one hand the amount of times you have missed a game, no matter what sport I was playing. When I was ready to move on from basketball and start travelling you didn’t miss a beat when you told me to do it. It amazes me how you would back me up when the rest of the world would tell me I’m being ridiculous. You let me create my own path, gently guiding me along the way and encouraging me to be interested in anything and everything.

I remember in high school one of my coaches mentioned to you how I was an at risk youth because I was being raised by a single mother and had no contact with my father. You were so angry, but I think you were more scared. I could have easily ended up on a different path. I could have been a teen mom, or gotten involved in drugs at a young age. I didn’t get myself into situations like those because you made sure to educate me properly on the consequences of all my decisions. You did it all on your own mom, you raised me and every day I am thankful that I ended up being your kid. You have said many times that you need to be careful about what you take out of a stubborn child, you never know how much they will need in life. I know it wasn’t always easy but you managed to turn my stubbornness into a combination of determination and compassion. I don’t know how you did it mom, I will never understand it but I hope one day I can be half the loving and compassionate person you are. You are so caring and kind. You will put anyone ahead of yourself, you just seem so pure. Even at twenty-two years old I look up to you and you still amaze me.

So as I get ready to go off to school in England I need to once again say thank you for the last twenty-two years. Thank you for all of the road trips, short and long, they made me adventurous and unafraid. Thanks for every hug you have given me, even when I tried to fight it off, you make sure I know I am loved unconditionally. Thank you for every single quality you have bestowed upon me. Each and every trait will have a huge influencing factor on my success, not only in my career, but also in building friendships and a life. Thank you for every late night when you stayed up after I got home from working in the restaurant to talk to me about my day. You have always made me feel valued. Most of all, thanks for being my best friend. You have never left my side even though I tried time and time again to push you away. I am going to miss you so much momma bear.

It wouldn’t be a true thank you letter to the people that raised me if I didn’t include the strong support system we have built up together. Carla, thank you for every late night you kept me while my mom was working. You fed me, got me to school, and treated me like I was one of your daughters. You were always like a second mother to me and I grew up loving you. You are another one that I will never truly be able to thank for all the opportunities you have afforded me in life. Most of all though, thanks for always being there for my mom. She needed you a lot when I was growing up and there you were. I feel okay leaving now because I know you two will always have each other, so on top of everything else you have done for me, thanks for that last little bit of comfort.

Uncle Brian, you really stepped up for me. Mom was always talking about how I didn’t have any male influences and how she was so thankful you were in my life. So am I, our relationship is rough around the edges just like us. You gave me a love of football and the Roughriders that my mom never could have. That football team connects me so strongly to Saskatchewan; this will always be my home even when I’m living in a different country. You make my heart happy Bri, I feel loved every time you are around. My dad didn’t care about me when I was growing up, but you always did and as much as I don’t think every person needs a strong male influence you really influenced me and the way I see men. Thanks for always being the one to crack inappropriate jokes that make me laugh, and teaching me to never pull someone’s finger. I’m going to miss you so much uncle, but I expect a few visits from you over the next three years.

Jill, I am lucky that you were my grade 6 teacher. There are people that come into your life at just the right time and if you are lucky they stay. It wasn’t just my life you walked into, it was my mom’s too and I didn’t fully realize that until this year. You came to more sporting events throughout my basketball and volleyball career than anyone ever expects their elementary teacher to attend. You have been a mentor through school, sports and life in general. I am so lucky that after ten years I have the honour to also call you my friend. Mom recently told me that when her and I were going through a rough patch she would often talk to you because she trusted your advice. Thank you for being someone my mom could trust and lean on. My gratitude towards you is infinite; you got us through some hard times. You have two of the sweetest little boys, and I have no doubt that you are the most incredible mother to them. Always remember that when times get tough, mom and I will be there for you just like you have always been for us.

I like to think that I take the road less travelled in my life, creating my own path along the way. Thank you all for not allowing a simple “thank you mom and dad” letter to be the typical letter you may expect to read. I know that I am blessed to have you all, I have never doubted that, but my life has not been typical. I have strayed from the path many times and you were all right there behind me, watching as a veered between thorny bushes and the gravel road. I have been kept safe by a team of people I love so dearly. You have all taught me that family does not necessarily mean blood related. More often than not the people that really truly love you are the ones born into a different family, but found you along the way. So once again, thank you for the support and the love you have all given to me over the last twenty-two years. Thank you for keeping me safe, and giving me the knowledge to protect myself. Most of all thank you for pushing me to follow my dream of being a lawyer. Each and every one of you contributed to giving this potential at-risk youth a future. So thank you.