You were gone before she arrived, though mom says she saw you for an instant, smiling next to me as I held your newborn, first grandchild for a photo. I didn’t see you, but in my mind I asked anyway to make sure my daughter arrived safely. She did. My pregnancy was bittersweet, filled with the excitement of impending motherhood, and the anguish I felt in losing you halfway through. Though everyone said you were still here watching over me, and despite my wanting to believe, I didn’t feel your presence. I did not see you, nor dream of you, or sense you at all in my life; you were just gone. In these past three years I’ve begun to see pieces of you as I watched my daughter grow. I see you in her face, while watching my husband interacting with her, and through my memories as I watch them together. She’s a daddy’s girl, just as I was, and whenever I see her with her father I catch a glimpse of what life was like when I had mine.
He teaches her to throw a basketball. I hear her yell, “Nothing but net!” as she makes the ball into the basket, and I’m rocketed back to the summer evenings we’d shoot hoops, playing a long game of HORSE. He fixes her broken toys, and puts together new ones with the tools from your workshop, the very same ones you used to repair mine, and build the wooden playhouse still standing in the backyard of my childhood home. I watch him sliding down the tallest slide in the playground, and I recall how you were never afraid to climb on the monkey bars along with me.
When he comes home, she screams “Daddy!” running into his arms, the same way you carried me a million times in yours. He is patient with her when she’s having an outburst, reminding me to give her space in very much the same way you always knew to give me mine. When I tell her “No,” I watch as she sneaks over to her daddy, already aware at age three that she has sway with him, the same as I knew I had pull with you. For a moment I’m upset with her attempted manipulation before I recall it was the same between us, and I smile with amusement.
They say women marry men like their fathers, and I proudly admit in my case it’s the truth. The man who promised you he’d take good care of me is living up to that promise, and then some. He is every bit the father I hoped he’d be. He’s every bit the father you were. I see the pride in his eyes when he sees his little girl do something new or amazing– the same delight I saw in your eyes when I rode a bike, climbed the steepest sledding hill, and sang my first aria. I observe her enthusiasm as she shows him her recently acquired capabilities, and know his proud gaze is her everything.
I envision her confiding in him as a teen, telling him things she’d never tell me because daddy is cool, he understands. Much like the many evenings I came home late to find you in the basement listening to music while the rest of the house was asleep, and there I’d sit with you and tell you all about my adventures. You were my friend as much as you were my father, and I always knew even when you didn’t understand, you tried to, without judgement or excessive words of warning. Every kid needs that, and watching my daughter and husband together, I know she will have it, too.
I may not speak to you in dreams, or feel your ghostly presence. I do not know whether you’re among us, or watching out for us from the great beyond, but somehow, I finally see you. I see pieces of the father you were, and the happiness our family shared. I see that special father/daughter bond, and remember you. I know how fortunate I was to have you as my dad, and feel more than blessed that my daughter is a lucky girl, too. I want you to know, wherever you are, you can smile knowing your granddaughter is growing up with a dad like you.