Heather and I had been dating less than a year when we took a trip to Chicago in 2003 to check out the Windy City and catch the USC/Notre Dame football game. We had a great time and pledged to return one day, but we never could have imagined the circumstances that would eventually bring us back. Back then we were carefree twentysomethings quick to laugh and have a good time. This trip found us weary thirtysomethings attending a conference where Heather would be speaking about the loss of our child.
The prospect of traveling so far away on this trip had us a bit nervous as we hadn’t ventured too far into the world since April 7th, but we were quickly put at ease when we met up with many of our fellow bloggers and headed East on the “party plane.” Once at the conference we met even more awesome people, many of whom had been so supportive of us through all of this. It was so great to meet in person so many of our new friends.
While Heather was hitting the seminars during the day, I set out on my own walking about the city. I visited a Blues museum and what I call the “Married With Children” fountain:
I ate a Chicago style hot dog:
Then met up with one of my best friends from high school who now lives in Chicago and took in a Cubs’ game at the legendary Wrigley Field:
Later I had fun back at the hotel/conference…I ate deep dish pizza from Gino’s of the East with the Super Secret Pizza Party/Tweet and Eat crowd…went bowling at BowlHer…and even was allowed to gossip with Heather, Megan, and Maya late into the night as if I was at a slumber party. I couldn’t have felt more like one of the girls if we had painted our toe nails and had a pillow fight.
While we definitely had a lot of fun, it was also a hard trip. Toward the end of the conference we overheard people mentioning how excited they were to fly home and see their children, but for us our flight home brought us no closer to seeing our little girl again. The gift shop at the hotel was full of the kind of souvenirs kids go crazy for, but I had no reason to buy one even though I desperately wanted to. In the last few months before Maddie passed she would get so happy each night when I came home from work, and I just know she would have been ecstatic to see me return from a trip with a present for her.
Sometimes it is not being able to do the simple things, like buy your daughter a present and see the smile on her face when you give it to her, that hurt the most.
Wherever you are, little girl…daddy loves you so much.