He was the first man we ever loved, and the first man who broke our hearts. We fought for his attention, thrived under his praise, withered under his scorn. He was the invincible tickle monster of our childhood, the evil oppressor of our misspent teenage years, and the font of advice when we fledged. The same man who knew when to put on and take off the training wheels was our guide when we heard something wrong with the car.
We, as little girls, thought he would always be there, but something happened. Maybe we lost a grandparent, maybe a pet died, and we realized with horror, that all life is mortal. I still remember when I learned that everything dies and that meant parents, too. Life is kind enough, though, that most of us didn't have to face the loss of our fathers while we were still young. Instead we saw with each year that Dad got grayer and less robust. The fathers of our youth that we thought were strong oaks turned out to be meadow grass that flourishes in its season and then fades under winter's blast.
We lose him. Yet life goes on. The grief fades, never leaving entirely, but recedes to a level we find we can more or less live with. We might not believe this in the early days of our grief, but it is so. Half-orphans, we casually speak of "Mom's house," when we had always said "Mom's and Dad's place" before, and the phrase passes into conversation without much notice. This is the natural order of things, that our fathers go before us into the longest night, and we have been prepared for this, (as much as anyone can be), ever since childhood.
That doesn't stop us from missing the Daddy who pushed us on the swings and checked our report cards. My father's birthday is just two days from now. He would have been eighty-five. Now, he's ageless. Miss you, Dad.