Seventeen. My oldest daughter would have turned seventeen last week. Seventeen seems like such an unimportant birthday. You became legal to drive the year before, and it will be another year before you are an adult. Seventeen is just seventeen.
As I sit here at the park watching my boys and my little girl play at the park, I can’t help but think there is more to being seventeen. This year would be the last she would be a child. Responsibilities sh e will never have to face would be looming around the corner. Decisions about the future would need addressing. She does not have to worry about any of that, but I wish she did.
This morning might have opened with a big breakfast, if we could get her out of bed, and she would have gotten hugs and kisses until she told us to go away. We wouldn’t listen. A dinner of her choosing and a cake made by her mom (or maybe her brother since he loves to bake) would end the day. Would she go out with her friends, or would she stay home with her family? I don’t know, and I never will.
My wife asked me if it would ever stop hurting. I told her no. It will always hurt when those two lonely milestones come around.
For my part the grief for her, my Hailey, hangs about my heart like a millstone grinding away at the wheat of my soul with a slow persistence that I may never be rid of entirely.
Thankfully, I have my wife and children to keep me whole. They are the light that chases away the darkness that wants to feed the destructive urges that lurk beneath the surface. They may never know exactly how much I love them, but I try to show them and tell them every day.