When my sister was born, my father, who apparently desperately had hoped for a son, was not at all disappointed. According to my mother, who had just labored through the most traumatic and near death event of her entire life, he proudly held daughter number two and said "I will have wonderful sons-in-laws". And he does, but quite unfairly Jack only knew Dad for a very short time.
They should have had a chance to get into trouble together; there should have been mornings when I was so mad at the two of them that I considered leaving them alone with each other forever. They should have gone fishing in Belize in the winter and Canada in the summer, carelessly scheduling a trip that coincided with my birthday. They should have obnoxiously wagered Nebraska vs. Aggies football and they should have golfed, inconveniently, when I needed help with the children, but they didn't. Jack knew post car accident Dad, an aged and more fragile version of the Wild Bill that raised me. Dad's life changing car accident robbed him of the mad vitality and fearlessness that drove him to drive down the side of a mountain in a teetering on the edge car, to hurl raw eggs at neighbors in Mexico, and to launch himself through a hotel room wall in college (although I am not supposed to know about that one). Jack knew kindler and gentler Bill, who moved slowly and cautiously through his days. I'd take that version, any version really because I still miss my dad. And now, nine years later, what I really miss is sharing him.
He should have had the chance to know his granddaughters, to celebrate Kate's recent book writing achievement and Mary's consistent straight A report card. He should have cheered them at soccer games, played with them on the beach and told them stories about their mother that they should never had known (as his mother told me about the hotel room self body launch). He should have had the chance to hold them, to know them and to love them. And they should have had the chance to know and love him, but they didn't.
I should have had the time to share my dad.
Today is my Dad's birthday. Every year I think it will befuddle me a bit less, that I might be too busy to notice, but I'm wrong, it gets me still. The children who distract me and overwhelm me with love also remind me just how vast the empty space is, his missing presence grows larger as their capacity to have known him grows.