He was reading my post. A draft only, and unpublished.
I stood at the dining room table folding laundry. He sat at the laptop reading. Reading, remembering, sheltering…
After a bit he looked up and the pain in his eyes was clear.
“Why do you want to post this?” he asked, and his voice carried in it the pain of a man who loves a daughter no one knows.
“To help people understand.” My reply was quiet, but grief echoed in my voice as well; the writing of the post was done: a labour of love wrought through tears and shaking fingers.
He swallowed visibly, returned his eyes to the page before him, skimming now, eyes brushing words that brought a little girl to life.
“We don’t have to share her,” I whispered, hot tears rushing to provide assurance. A way out.
And I saw it then, as I’d never seen or imagined it before: the fierce, tangible jealousy of a father for his child; the innate need to shelter and protect; the fear that someone will love her less than she deserves.
And the overpowering vulnerability of a heart’s love.
For this father, however, there are no iPhone videos, no framed photos on the desk at work, no first words, no pudgy fingers against the front window as his car pulls up. There are no hidden smiles at fierce defiance, no bedtime stories or sought-out comfort for bloodied knees.
Yet here, in black and white was a little girl he’d never shared.
I was asking the world of him.
And he gave it. Because though a father knows of sacrifice and vulnerability and heartache, he loves all the same.
“They’ll ask her name,” he said.
“Her name is ours,” I replied.
“To help people understand,” he repeated, and nodded.
And in that moment, I was the first to understand.
And oh-so grateful for it.