When my father was dying, I heard a few comments. One was how sad it was that my parents hadn't done more with their lives. They didn't really travel. They didn't really have a retirement. And then I heard comments that my parents' worlds revolved around us - their kids.
I think that is quite true. Our little nuclear family was all we had. Sure, we had relatives on both sides of the family. Both of them had brothers and sisters, who in turn had children. But distance and age differences and other factors prevented us from always getting together with them. But we had each other.
My parents didn't need to go out to see the world. They got to see the world through our eyes. My sister is a seasoned world traveler, thanks to her job. I have only been to France and Switzerland. Two of those trips were with my father.
When they gave up the furniture store, they led a new working life. It was one that actually had vacation time. What a concept. But instead of taking that time to go explore somewhere on their own, they preferred to take time to come visit their kids. It was easy when my sister and I both lived in the same city a few states over. They could come stay with one and visit us both, all in one shot. They lived for us coming home to visit them on our breaks. In fact, I spent almost every single school vacation back at their house. Others I know were taking fantastic vacations. I just always wanted to go home and spend time with my grandma and my parents. I knew that I wouldn't have them forever. I just didn't expect our time to be cut so short so soon.
Dad always seemed like the kind of guy who didn't want a lot to do with kids. Sure, he had fun playing with them here and there. But he was always grateful when the quiet time came when they went home. I remember being surprised when he started bugging me about having kids. He is the one who once said to me, "Your mother and I don't care anymore if you get married. We just want the grandkids!" He loved looking at pictures of his siblings' grandkids and dreamed of being able to post a zillion of his own photographs on Facebook. He loved having my cousins visit with their beautiful daughters.
The closest I ever came for him was when I dated a man who had custody of his five year-old daughter. That relationship didn't work out and about 14 years have passed. No grandkids have ever made it into the picture. I think my dad would have been a great grandfather. He would have had a short period of patience, but would have enjoyed every second of being with them. I'm sorry for my future kids and their father that they will have never met him.