WHILE it was safe for Isay to have her first Halloween, we drew the line on her first cemetery visit. The crowd is just too much for a kid her age. In lieu of that, allow us—Isay, her mom and me—to light a few candles in honor of those we will always refuse to forget.
May their souls always have a peaceful rest.
In almost all aspects, Isay’s arrival was perfectly timed. We had stable jobs. We built a nest and grew a nest egg. We got married. We got pregnant. Everything planned. Sure, there were hitches along the way. But if you told us that those would be the hitches we would encounter on the way to welcoming Isay to this world, we would have gladly signed whatever agreement thrust before us. Whatever we encountered, those hitches, they were a bargain.
But as Halloween burned its final witching hour and midnight reeled in another day, a pang of regret gripped my insides tight. The sadness, the melancholic longing, sprung from a regret that will never die. There will always be that one part of Isay’s arrival whose timing will be eternally wrong and can never be corrected.
Isay never got to meet her great grandfather.
I’d previously dealt with the grief of losing my grandfather in a blog post last year. I thought that as time passed, that grief would lose its edge. I always believed that Isay’s coming would make the art of letting go a more voluntary final act. I know now that I was wrong. And I always will be. Whenever this day of remembrances approaches each year, I will always be overcome with grief and regret.
If I could give Isay’s arrival a time machine do-over, I’d make it so that she could have held the hand of the strong, purpose-driven, kind-hearted and loving man whose hand we all held at one point or another in our lives—literally and figuratively. I’d make it so she could have sat on his lap, listened to words both wise and witty and looked out the window from the front seat of a car he was driving (while eating pan de coco).
It’s not just because Gramps doted on his children, his grandchildren and great grandchildren with a love both powerful and protective, both disciplined and assuring.
It is, most of all, because gramps loved the women of the family the most. My grandmother was the only apple of his eye. My mom and her sisters he provided for and sheltered protectively. My sister and my girl cousins he pampered. My nieces? He adored them.
I wish Isay could have met him. Especially since it was my grandfather who tipped me beforehand that I would be getting my fondest wish and have a daughter. I shared this story with my brother Brian, his favorite (grand)son, the morning I woke up from the most vivid of dreams. Gramps was sitting on the edge of our bed, smiling his impish smile, rubbing my wife’s belly and whispering to us, “take care of the little princess.”
I woke up crying.
I wanted to scream and beg him to please stay and help us take care of Isay. I wanted him to take her to the beach and teach her to swim like he taught all of us. I wanted him to show Isay what unconditional love truly meant. I wanted him to teach Isay about life’s rights and wrongs and the virtues of patience and hard work. I wanted to hold his hand and tell him that even if I tried beyond my best, I could only be for Isay half the man he was for all of us. But dreams are dreams and they vanish at the first flutters of wakefulness.
And so here we are. On this day, as we keep on loving and cherishing the memories of people who in our hearts will never die, I will nurse a tangible slice of regret that will live for as long as I will.