I won’t ever have the honor of walking my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
That was a tough first sentence to write, trust me on that.
Not having children is the one failure in my life I will carry to my grave.
Because I had two great parents, I think I would have been a good father. I would have always been there for my son or daughter and I would have enjoyed every step of the way as they grew from infants to toddlers to baseball players to ballerinas to scholars to spouses to parents themselves.
I would be as proud as I possibly could be.
I have been the proud papa of a 17 1/2 year-old cat named Lily and I was the adopted father of a wonderful little dog named Becky. They both count very much in my life, having given me memories and good times.
But neither Lily nor Becky would, nor could, provide me with the joy of a daughter or son.
That said, in two weeks I will attend a wedding in New Jersey of Maria, a young lady whom I consider to be my non-biological, non-blood-related, as close as possible — daughter. She has asked me to read at her wedding Mass and to offer a pre-meal blessing at her reception.
I feel more than honored and will do my very best to contribute to her day.
But it will not be easy. As happy as I am for her embarking on her new life, I am again reminded of my fatherless failure. I so wish this was my daughter walking down the aisle. I have wished that for decades.
I’m reminded of a day in July, 2014, when I was walking to my car after work and found a graduation photo of a girl named Kennedy stuck to my driver’s side window. I didn’t know the girl in the photo, so I dismissed it and tossed it on my passenger’s seat and drove home.
That’s when the “what-ifs” hit me. What if “Kennedy” was my long lost daughter or granddaughter? What if she was reaching out to me? What if she wanted to meet me? What if, what if, what if?
What if she’s getting married and wants me to walk her down the aisle?
The experience had me shaking. My thoughts and hopes were borne more out of this always-with-me desire to have a child, all the while knowing that, as the Zombies sang in the 60s — “She’s Not There.”
It was a glimmer of hope, quickly doused, but it was fun to suddenly think about things — birthdays, graduations, proms, ballgames, weddings — that never occurred with my non-existent daughter.
I thought about the perpetuation of family after I’m gone.
I’ve been around children most of my life. I have coached and I have volunteered with many organizations that help kids and young adults. Those experiences have been great, providing me with priceless memories I will have even into the next life.
As wonderful as all those memories are, they don’t fill the void of not having my own child. But I’ve learned to live with it and to accept it.
That’s why I can’t wait for Maria’s wedding in two weeks. I will be as proud as any biological father could be and will cherish this special time forever.
I’m sure, as Maria walks down the aisle, I’ll close my eyes and imagine my non-existent daughter’s wedding. I’ll see her in her flowing gown and watch as I give her to her husband.
I will see myself crying as she exchanges her vows and says, “I do.”
Like Kennedy did two years ago, Maria now gives me memories of things I never learned — of things I never had or knew.
Too often, we don’t value what we have — we don’t realize or appreciate all that life brings us.
I even manage to value memories I didn’t make and I treasure the experiences I could have had.
Sometimes, we need to be reminded of all that is good.
A graduation photo stuck on my car did that for me once.
This time, it’s a wedding in New Jersey.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle