They are both here in front of me: two photographs. One of a daughter dead at birth. One of a father who died after a four year struggle with cancer. I can barely remember either one without the aid of a photograph. Of course, I can remember Grace and her small body, her three pound, 15 ounce self. But what I actually remember of her is rather hazy because I didn't realize then that I could have asked for more time. I didn't realize that instead of the three hours and 48 minutes I got with her could have stretched into another day. Instead, I took in what I could. The closed eyes, the dark lips, the furrowed forehead.
But now it really is rather hazy without the photograph in front of me.
And my father? Nothing. I remember nothing. I see the black and white photo in front of me, and it is as if I see a stranger. I see him holding my brother on his lap, me on my mother's lap, the other two off to the side. But no amount of staring at him can bring him any closer. No amount of looking in his eyes reflects back anything more than stories I have been told by others.
I see him in my mind, kneeling on the grass in our front yard with my brother, Jason while I remain inside of my mother's belly. I can envision the prayer my brother has told me about, when my father, joined by my brother, kneels down and prays for a daughter. I wonder if it was morning or night. I wonder if the grass was wet with dew. I wonder how fervently my brother actually prayed with him.
I see this image too as a photograph told to me several times as if the telling of it makes it real.
Are they real? My father and my daughter? For they were born, one living and breathing, one not. Set next to one another I suppose you could say my father got the longer life, the 42 years set against the other, 32 weeks inside of a body seems quite long.
But neither was long enough for me. With each of them, I cannot say that I had enough time with either one. I can say easily that I feel greedy. That I want more. That I want enough time with each of them to feel satiated.
I want one sitting with the other--granddaughter in grandfather's lap.
I want to call my father when conversations with my mother don't go so well.
I want to call my father when conversations with my husband don't go so well.
I want to call my father to tell him about my day, and I want to ask him for answers to questions that I just can't seem to answer.
I want to call my father and tell him, hopefully retired by now, to fly up to visit, to come up and fix the moulding around the refrigerator that we don't have time to fix. I want to ask him to patch the ceiling where the water has dripped for a couple of weeks now. I want to ask him to stay with the children while Terry and I go out on a much-needed and much overdue date.
And I want him here to teach me how to grieve. To tell me what it was like to lose his own father as a child, and how he found ways to cope. I want him here to teach me how to grieve.
As a minister, he would have seen and performed enough funerals by now to have a sense of what works and what doesn't. He would be able to comfort me with words and laughter, and I want to believe all of this with the desperate faith of a child toward her father. I want to believe that whatever words I would have cast out toward him in anger as a teenager would long ago have dissolved. I want to believe that I would have lived up to his prayer in the grass on that long, long ago day when his prayers rose up to sky and were met with answers that all of us found pleasing.
I want my prayers to be answered as easily as his: Yes, yes, you can have your daughter. Here she is.
And you, you can have your father for as long as you want.
I want my prayers answered as positively as his were on that day.
I want. I long. And I continue to feel terribly greedy toward all of these things that I wish for.
Granddaughter set atop of grandfather. Is that really too much to wish for?
Maybe, just maybe, with my childlike wonder and candy-coated faith, granddaughter really does sit with grandfather and time no doubt will pass too quickly until all of us are together again and some of my questions will finally be answered.