Leslie McMurrayGrowing up in Southern California, I idolized my dad. He was everything I wasn’t. He was bigger than life. He was a gentle giant. He was our protector.

Father’s Day was a day to honor him but he always turned it into a fun day for us. He didn’t want a lot of fuss over him. Dad gifts for him were things he’d use for the family, like a new grill.

I didn’t know it at the time, but June 15, 1986 was the last Father’s Day I’d have with my dad. He died the following February and I’ve missed him more than my words can ever hope to express.

On Nov. 7, 1980 I became a father to my baby girl, Sarah, and so continued the tradition of that third Sunday in June being special to me.

I struggled as a dad. I loved my two daughters with all my heart and soul, but I had a difficult time being the dad they both deserved. The standard

I had to live up to was impossibly high and the inner turmoil I felt inside made me feel even more unworthy.

I often retreated inside myself.

In July 2012, everything came spilling out. I began transition to female in the winter of that year. I started hormones in January and both of my girls were tremendously supportive of me.

That year, 2013, was a year unlike any other in my life and to this day, I am amazed I came out of it in one piece. In a span of about 90 days, my divorce from my wife of 33 years was final, I left a job I loved and did well, and I had to move out of a safe, comfortable home that I adored — all while going through the awkward and often traumatic experience of early transition.

I was hanging by a thread.

I had moved in with a friend in Marble Falls, Texas where I knew no one. My life as I’d known it was over. I was starting over at 55. Could I do this?

On May 31, I agreed to leave the big house in Flower Mound. I put everything I owned in life into a 10×15 storage unit (a sobering thought).

The majority of the contents of the 4,000-plus-square-foot house were going to California to my ex wife. Everything else was being tossed. I didn’t have the room to store it, so I let it go.

Now, it was June 16, just two weeks later. It was a sweltering hot Sunday, and I’d driven the three-and-a-half hours from Marble Falls to finish cleaning out the house, garage and workshops of the spacious house I had called home.

The process was moving along. Boxes full of familiar books, dishes, furniture, pictures, clothing — the stuff of a 33-year-marriage were being packed up to be sent to their final destination. It was emotionally exhausting.

In a pile on the driveway was stuff that couldn’t come along and was just being trashed. I spent most of that blisteringly hot day wiping tears from my face. I was a wreck.

The mover my ex had called to move this stuff showed up with a standard Chevy van and the smallest U-Haul trailer available. I flipped! There was no freaking way everything would fit in that — plus there was just one guy!

It was going to take multiple trips and all day — and everything HAD to be gone that day. Anything that wasn’t packed and moved by then would go to the dump.

Right as I was jawing with this mover, my cell rang. “Happy Father’s Day” came the voice of my oldest daughter.

I said “Thanks! Can I call you right back? I’m kind of in the middle of something.” She said, “Sure, I need to ask you something.” I said, “OK, talk to you soon.”

Only I didn’t. She’s a mom herself and was busy, too. I called back but missed her.

The next day, while driving back to Marble Falls, I called again and found out what she wanted to ask. She had seen so many people on Facebook posting pictures of their dads on Fathers Day, and she wanted to know if it was OK with me if she posted one of me — pre-transition. She knew I was now living full time as Leslie and wanted to be respectful.

I said, “Of course honey. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of who I was, but thank you for asking. What picture were you wanting to post?”

She answered, “The one of you walking me down the aisle.”

I cried for the next 100 miles.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2015.