I'm sorry; I'm just a bit goopy today. I'm missing my dad, like always. The last time I saw him was Father's Day weekend in 2007, so he's very much on my mind. (Nothing out of the ordinary, that visit, unless you find it sad and kind of freaky, as I do, that his children's gift to him that year was a Kevlar bulletproof vest. Yyyeeeeah. So much for Project Keep Dad Alive.)
My father loved his community and served it energetically. I'd known about some of his efforts, like his membership in the Sheriff's Auxiliary (hence the vest); others I found out about only later. Learning that he'd ridden with the Patriot Guard, a group of motorcyclists known for keeping Fred Phelps and his ilk at bay at the funerals of U.S. service members, made me cry. (So did the presence of those good men and women at his visitation and his funeral, standing silent in respect. God, did I cry as I thanked them.) I'm sorry I didn't know that before he died. That fact adds a dimension to my understanding of him that I didn't have while he was alive. Even now I feel like I'm still learning who he was two years after he died.
What I did know — was fortunate enough to know — while he lived was how much he loved us. I'd thought I knew it all along, but, hello, generational recapitulation, I now feel I didn't truly get it until I had kids of my own. I remember so well when I had that epiphany. I was sitting across from Charlie in the car of a Ferris wheel as we looked out across the fairgrounds a few summers ago. His face was utterly alight: incredulous, a little bit apprehensive at the rocking of the car, so bright and observant, alert and, I don't know, just alive. And I remembered doing exactly that with my dad, sitting stopped at the top of the wheel. I was always disappointed to feel the ride lurch back into motion. When I was a kid, that time at the top never lasted long enough. Sitting there with Charlie, I felt that way again for entirely different reasons. And so, I suddenly realized, had my dad. He watched me with the very same pride, affection, concern, amusement, wonder — he loved me the way I loved Charlie.
If I hadn't had the chance to feel it myself, I wouldn't have fully appreciated it. Last year at the fair, on the Ferris wheel again, I cried, understanding.
I am grateful, but also sad. Infertility takes so much from us, starting with children conceived and born easily, of course, but continuing down through trust in our bodies; social connectedness; a feeling of purpose; and, oh, pretty much everything else you'd expect. It can also put us at an impossible remove from our parents, the people who once knew us best. As a consequence — and others may be more perceptive, so I speak only for myself — it can keep us from knowing, on that visceral, experiential level, how much we ourselves were once loved.
Infertility did not, in the end, rob me of that precious knowledge. But I know what I might have missed, and how lucky I am that I didn't. Lucky to know how loved I was. And terribly sad to have lost it.