Sometimes, it is just overwhelming. Parents out there will understand, though: you can never stop. You cannot stop.
But there's no instruction manual.
More so than I've felt since the break, I so sincerely wish I could talk with S. To seek shelter with her, from the rain. From the pounding goddamned rain. To lay my head in her lap and feel her fingers run through my hair. For her to look at me -- at my pain, my doubt, my fear -- with those unending brown eyes, and silently remind me that I'll have help. That she'll be there to force me upright when all I want is to collapse to the ground.
Papa is the center of my daughter's universe. He is the most loving, most adoring, most devoted grandfather. If there were prizes... if you remember your grandparents (I lost all of mine when I was still very young) with any fondness whatsoever, I tell you this: Papa is better.
Papa has been retired since my daughter's birth. He has nothing to do but shower that kid with an affection we'd all be better having had.
When my ex-wife and I split, she moved in with her parents in NorVa. It was a natural choice: it would provide her with the best imaginable source of childcare, and she could save money as she regathered her life. And give her respite, so she could try and find that ever-so-elusive balance again.
That was over three years ago.
My ex-wife had recently expressed the intention of moving out on her own this coming Summer, and, evidently, Grammy and Papa were moving back to Texas, from which they'd come when our daughter was born. They'd no reason to burn through retirement income in cost-of-living-prohibitive NorVa now that everything seemed okay. Certainly, there'd be lots of visiting. Of course.
I love Papa, too. As I've said about my daughter's mother, I simply cannot imagine a better grandparent. My daughter is very, very lucky.
That she has spent infinitely more time with Papa than I since the divorce is not lost on me. Regulated, scheduled visitations and deployments do nothing to help rectify this imbalance. Not that I'm competing, mind you. Perhaps a little envious.
I received an email from my ex-wife today.
Papa has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
I do not know if I can be strong enough to help my daughter heal, when that day comes. Because it is coming. I want to crawl into a ball right here, right this minute. I want to cry. I can feel the tears gathering behind my eyes. But I cannot. There is no privacy, here. I am surrounded by men with whom I work, eat, rest... 24-hours. This is not a story I wish to share with them. And it'd be necessary, when everyone wonders, "What happened? What happened? Why is Chief bawling?"
It just occurred to me -- right this second -- that having unexpectedly lost my own father last August does not make this any easier.
She will be in a pain that I know too well. Yet, hers will be worse. Papa has, essentially, been her father in my absence. In my absences. All of them.
I know exactly where I am, but I am lost.