I don’t know the first thing about how to be a father to a fifteen year-old girl. Today is her birthday and if she had lived I would be puzzling this out, what I think about clothes and boys and music and especially boys, because all my babies are beautiful and perhaps Caroline most of all.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe we would not have gotten along. Maybe we would have been so alike that we ended up at odds. Mostly I imagine I would have been wrapped around her finger, at the mercy of her chocolate eyes and her curly brown hair and her tenderhearted ways. Maybe that would have made me a poor father. Maybe it would have made me better.
I suppose we all of us have shadowed places in our lives, places where reside only the ill-formed shapes of what might have been, never clear and untouchable and framed only by their absence of light. But we have what has yielded those shadows as well, or at least the memories of them. I can’t know how her voice would sound today, but I can recall her singing ABCs; I can’t know what it’s like for her head to reach my shoulder, but I can remember carrying her on my shoulders.
In every life there are the things we have and the shadows that haunt us, and which we call could have been. Maybe part of enduring is looking where the light is, rather than where it is not. Caroline is the daughter who was and the daughter who is gone and simply the daughter who is. I don’t know if she is fifteen, or three like the night she died, or some other age altogether. Perhaps she is beyond age, amongst the ages of ages, dwelling where there is no absence of light.
But she is, and she was my daughter, and this is the true thing I celebrate and grieve this day and every day, as well as give thanks for her and for her brothers, without whom I would be lost.