We sat around my sister’s dining room table, laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes, reliving and rehashing the events of the night before. My aunt and uncle “fishing” for each other on the dance floor. My brother’s hilarious toast to the bride and groom (my other brother). My cousin’s Russian girlfriend responding to someone’s question of “Where did he find you?” with “Amazon Prime.”
There is nothing like a wedding reception at a whiskey distillery to keep things entertaining. Since my husband, a Navy helicopter pilot, deployed in early October, moments like these have been rare. While I was surrounded by family, laughing with abandon, it felt as if he were simply in the next room watching the Chiefs game with some of the guys, instead of on a ship, somewhere in the Middle East.
As my aunt told a story, my newly turned 5-year-old climbed on my lap. She quietly slid my phone off the table, and asked in a whisper if she could look at pictures. I kissed her head and nodded as I laughed along with the other adults. Moments later, we were all interrupted as my daughter started to cry. Not sniffling. I’m talking lose-your-mind-something-is-really-wrong-wailing-hysterically kind of cry. I looked down at my phone and saw what stared back at her: a “today in history” picture of my husband holding her in the hospital, his face full of the wonder and joy that new parenting brings.
“Daddy,” she said, sobbing. “I miss my daddy.” I scooped her up and carried her upstairs to a rocking chair to console her. My father (her Papa) and her cousin Finley came up to help soothe her, but she wasn’t having it. “I don’t want YOUR daddy,” she cried to me. “Not Finley’s daddy, or Addie’s daddy, I want MY daddy.” Over, and over again she said it, until a funny video of her playing at the pool with my husband (accompanied by promises of doing that again soon) consoled her. Those 20 minutes felt like 20 years. Finally calm, we walked downstairs to find a quiet dining room, where the tears of laughter in everyone’s eyes had quickly been replaced by ones of deep sympathy and palpable sadness.
Later that night, once the children were asleep, I found my generally stoic brother (Addie’s daddy) in the basement, also in tears. As he wrapped his arms around me, he offered: “This just seems so hard for you guys. Is it really worth it?”