It's painful to think of all of the things that Katie missed because she passed away at 12 years of age. Sometimes the pain is so intense that I just skate along the surface of my feelings, and think, instead. Like right now.
One of the things that is comforting to me is to think about what a great childhood David and Katie had (until October of 2006, when she was diagnosed with cancer), and how very much loved they are.
Gregg and I first met at a party -- a sort of all-day Oktoberfest. At one point in the evening, we were sitting side by side on a couch in the living room of our hosts' house. A baby, about 6 months old, was sitting up in the center of the room, being admired by alot of the folks who were seated in a loose circle around him.
I was going through a divorce at the time, and the thought of having a baby just made me shudder. Literally. I looked at the baby sitting up so proudly, with all eyes on him: I shuddered, and said, to no one in particular, "Ew...I don't know if I could ever do that," meaning take on the responsibility of having a child. Gregg responded without hesitation, "Oh, I think it'd be GREAT." I had one of those moments when your stomach drops and you think, "WHAT? Why am I talking to this guy who I don't even know about BABIES?" Very weird...and then I let go of it.
Flash forward 19 months, and we are married. David was born 18 months after that. Two years and 4 months after he was born, Katie arrived, and we felt as if our family was complete. This picture is the first one we have of Katie laughing.
Gregg has been an uncle since he was about 12 years old. He is from a huge extended family, and it seems that there were always cousins being born somewhere, to someone. Playing with children comes naturally to him. In fact, the men in his family are so great with kids that I think they have a special gene. A number of them are/were school teachers, principals, etc. I had never before seen a man hold a baby with such confidence and skill as Gregg.
He was in complete and utter bliss, becoming a father. He did everything, and I mean everything, to help with the kids and the house. He never shied away from any involvement with them, and I learned most of what I know about baby care from (or with) him.
Gregg loves our family deeply, and has a special bond with both of our kids, but right now I am going to talk about the Daddy-Daughter bond.
A girl's self-confidence and relationships to men can be deeply impacted by how she is treated by her father. The daddy-daughter bond can be a great source of strength to both parties; Gregg and Katie shared that kind of bond. It brought so much good to both of them. They shared a special playfulness, and a common (Norwegian?) coolness about things, at their center; not a lack of passion, but an innate sense that they could cope with life. Katie was not afraid of getting into trouble, upsetting people, or not being liked. She had the confidence and certainty of being loved. I think alot of that came from the love of a good and beautiful man, her father, since before she was even born.
Gregg stayed with Katie in the hospital on Friday and Saturday nights, so that I could spend that time with David at Ronald McDonald House (and have better sleep on those two nights). He slept on the little cot by her bed, helped her and did everything she needed on those nights. I don't know what I would have done without a partner who would step in and be part of everything the way he did (including giving her her medications, shots, cleaning up after sickness, doing laundry, etc.), calmly and with love. This willingness to be present gave him more precious time with her.
He was present at her birth, and at her passing from this earth, and he spoke at her Celebration of Life.
Here is a photo of their Daddy-Daughter dance, at a wedding a few years ago. Katie was thrilled to be dancing with her dad, and you can see it written all over her face.
Today, I want to say, "Thank you" to my love for being the best Daddy that Katie (and David) could have asked for. I love you!