I tried to calm the sobbing in the backseat of my car with the gentle assurance, “Don’t worry, sweetie, he’s coming back.”

“But I want to see him now,” she said.

I told her I understood. For a not-quite three-year-old, it can, at times, be traumatic when you’re not sure how long your daddy will be gone.

“He’s just running inside for a moment and then he’ll be right back to tell you how much he misses you,” I continued. “I promise.”

“But I miss him,” she wailed.

“I know, Honey. I miss my mommy when I don’t get to see her,” I replied.

Her tears dried up quickly as she asked, “What about your daddy? Do you have a daddy?”

My breath stopped for a moment. She had just met my family a few weeks prior — my mom, my brothers, my sister-in-law, many of the kids. Everyone but my dad.

“Yes, I have a daddy,” I said.

“Where is he?” she asked.

At this point, her only concept of death was knowing that my Boston Terrier didn’t get to come home from the vet at Christmas. It was all I had to work with.

“Remember when Harley died? Well, just like Harley, my daddy got sick and he died,” I said. Almost 10 years to the day, I thought.

“Aww,” she said, her tiny voice rich with empathy.

The car was quiet for a bit before she spoke up again, this time her voice filled with excitement.

“You know what?” she said. “I bet he’ll come home to see you!”

I sat in silence for a moment, tears welling up in my eyes.

“He’ll come see you soon because he loves you so much,” she assured me.

I choked up and managed to squeak, “I would like that very much,” to the toddler who was trying to calm the sobbing in the driver’s seat of my car.

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