Driving home from work today, I was hit with a melancholy mood. It was more than the rain. It was more than just the perpetual state of gray South Jersey always seems to be surrounded by. It was more than the end of a long day at the end of long week in which patients vomited on me twice. It was the song playing on my car stereo.
As I felt tears sting my eyes and wondered why, I became suddenly conscious that I was singing along to Ben Folds' "Gracie," perhaps one of the most touching father-to-daughter songs ever written. The reason it was making me sad was that when I was still in communication with my ex-boyfriend, I told him to listen to it, because it reminded me of him and his daughter, Addison.
Now it always reminds me of them.
I don't really miss my ex much anymore. We had some good times, but just as many bad times, and whether it was bad timing or an age difference or just crappy circumstances, we weren't right for each other. I can pretty much honestly say I'm over all the hurt and the ugly stuff that went down at the end of that relationship and choose to remember the good times fondly and try not to dwell on the negative crap. It barely even feels like getting punched in the gut anymore when I run into him at work. (Oh yes, we work at the same place. Probably not the smartest choice of places to find a boyfriend, but you live and learn.)
You live and learn, and eventually you hurt less, you miss the person less, you face your broken heart, and you get over it. But you don't get over a child. I'm learning that. Addi was only about 6 months old when I started dating Alex, and I had huge reservations about getting involved with someone with a child, especially a baby. Would I resent her? Would I get tired of spending most of my time taking care of someone else's kid? Would she get in the way of our spending time together? It never occured to me that I would fall madly in love with her and view her as the most important part of my life. That never occured to me. It just happened. It happened the first time I saw her. As an adult, I have never really been a make-a-big-fuss-over-babies person. And I never really believed in love at first sight. Until Addi.
Over the three months that I dated Alex, Addi and I formed a bond unlike anything I've ever experienced with another person. When she allowed me to hold her the first time I met her, even though she was in her "stranger shy" stage at the time, I melted. And the more time I spent with her, the more I melted. I felt so priviledged to watch her growing, to care for her, to feed her, bathe her, make her laugh. Making Addison laugh could make an entire day worthwhile. I had never been so entirely filled with joy, but at the same time, I had never been so completely terrified. I didn't know how I could handle it if I lost her. After all, she wasn't my child, as much as I couldn't have loved her more if she were.
For months after the relationship ended, I dreamt of Addi every night. I looked at pictures of her all the time. I imagined what she would be doing at whatever age she was at. Was she walking yet? Saying her first words? Feeding herself? Occasionally, Alex would send pictures -- Addi on her christening day, Addi on Santa's lap, Addi wearing a shirt I bought for her that read My Dad Rocks. He meant well, but I eventually had to tell him to stop, because it hurt too much. When he offered to send me pictures of her first birthday party, I declined.
At first, I was really angry and upset. After all, I loved her more than I've ever loved another human being, and chances are, she'll never know I existed. At most, she may come across a picture of the two of us one day and ask who I was and get the reply, "Daddy's friend." I dwelled on this, and it tore me apart. I had decided during our relationship that it was meant to be, because I wasn't sure I could even have children or if I wanted them. But Addi had made me realize how much I did want them, and maybe if I couldn't have children, I was meant to be with someone who did. I never fancied myself to be her mother; she has a wonderful mother. But I felt blessed every day that I got to be part of her life. When that priviledge was taken away, I was angry. It seemed like nothing meant anything. It seemed like it had all been for nothing, and all I was left with was pain.
Today, driving home, listening to that song, and thinking how I used to sing "Still Fighting It" -- another Ben Folds song, ironically -- to Addison when she cried, I realized I have been looking at it all wrong. Being in Addi's life was a blessing, even if I did hurt and will always hurt on some level for losing her. Because it doesn't matter if she never knows who I was. It matters that I knew her, that I remember her. Because she changed my life. Addison opened my heart, softened me, made me realize that I could be selfless, made me see the joy in small things, and showed me a capacity for love that I never knew I possessed. And that is what matters.
So, if by chance, Addi, when you are a teenager and surfing the internet, you stumble upon this blog: Thank you. I will always love you, even if you don't know who I am.
"There will always be a part of me that nobody else is ever gonna see but you and me, my little girl." Ben Folds, "Gracie"