“You say you are trying, but you don’t ever mean it. You don’t care what I want!”
“Do you think this is fun for me?!”
Watching her hazel eyes well up with tears, I sink to the ground in a pool of my own tears and regret. She is too young, perhaps, to know how deeply her angry words stab into an open wound of personal failure.
It has been a long and lonely path and I’m putting all my chips on table and gambling on happiness. I’m excited and terrified all at once, a simmering pot of stress that occasionally breaks free and singes the ones I love.
Their sting is my searing pain.
It won’t be long before she no longer touches my cheek as we sit under the stars in her bedroom and wonder about fairies and before he no longer tells me about the adventure he’s discovered inside the pages of a book. With each passing year I feel a profound sense of personal shortcoming that they will never know a childhood with a father. They will have the one I created for them, with all of its raw edges and soft moments. Its adventures and its voids.
For all the happiness and joy we’ve found, for all the love I’ve wrapped them in, they still wish for the one piece I have yet to give them. Maybe they want it because they don’t ever remember having it. Maybe they want it because, with few exceptions, everyone else has it. Maybe they want it because they want me, after so much time and so much loneliness, to be loved because they understand that my own happiness bleeds over and around them.
As the sun begins to set on a day meant to celebrate everything I have tried to be for them, I brush my own ache away to soothe hers and she wraps her arms around me and I feel her soft cheeks against my neck the way she has done so many times before.
“We just want you to be happy, Mommy.”
“I am happy, lovely girl.”
Because of you.