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My Husband Will Not Be Waiting For Me At Baggage Claim

Sunday, June 20, 2021

By Melissa Gould

Maybe this Father’s Day we’ll go to the airport — the place that represents some sort of conduit to where he might be.

I cry every time I pick up my daughter from the airport. I see her sweet little face and those green eyes like her daddy’s searching for me as I sit in my semi-parked car hoping security won’t tell me to move and circle the airport again.

My daughter sports her usual travel ensemble of sorority sweatshirt and black leggings. As she lugs her backpack and wheels her luggage behind her, I think to myself, It would be so easy if this were Joel coming home from a trip. We’d reunite outside baggage claim like it was the most ordinary thing in the world. We’d kiss hello, quickly hug, and head home.

But this makes no sense, because Joel, my husband and my daughter’s father, died almost eight years ago. He is not coming home from a business trip or a guys’ weekend; he is simply gone.

This is why I cry. It’s what runs through my mind each and every time our daughter gets off the plane coming home from college or visiting family. I can’t help but think of Joel. How easy it would be, should be, to see him again.

I feel like I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe it’s grief that has continued to get the best of me. It’s been eight years. Eight years. And even though life moves forward and really is good, I want Joel to come home.

He has missed our only child’s teen years. Every graduation so far. Teaching her to drive. Prom. Her leaving for college. The big stuff. He’s also missed the small things that make up a life, like haircuts and summer jobs and a revolving door of friends. Birthdays, vacations, anniversaries.

And this Sunday will be our eighth Father’s Day without him.

When our daughter was young, Joel, an early riser, would pretend to sleep in on Father’s Day morning so we could “wake” him up with homemade cards, scrambled eggs in bed, and things our daughter made him in school: collages, paper ties, connected hearts with her kindergarten scribble inside.


In my memoir, Widowish, I refer to myself as an only parent. This is something I believe all widows are. We are on call 24/7. Most parents are, too, even when both parents are alive and well. But when you’re the one — the only one — who ensures that your child is loved, cared for, protected, fed, clothed, educated in every way, it’s a lot of pressure.

It’s amazing, though, to think of what my daughter and I have been through. She was thirteen when her father died. She just turned twenty-one. We’ve come so far since those early days of grief, and we’ve done it together. She is my everything, in the best possible way.

I wish my husband were here every single day, and Father’s Day is no different. Over time, it’s gotten easier to stomach the celebrating I see on social media and the posts of so many people who, like my daughter, no longer have a father to celebrate.

But the truth is that every day we feel the absence of his presence. It’s something we have simply gotten used to. Today is no different.

Maybe my daughter and I will get bagels or eat some of Joel’s favorite foods. Maybe she’ll post a picture of me on her social media like she did a few years ago, adding a colorful “#1 Dad” tag to her post. (I actually loved that.)

Or maybe I’ll suggest we drive to the local airport. I know that sounds crazy, and perhaps even morbid. I can’t help it if I think that airports represent some sort of conduit to where my husband might be.

I don’t expect him to appear, but I enjoy seeing people reunited at the end of a long flight, signs held up at baggage claim as travelers greet their loved ones. That won’t be us, but I suppose if we did make a sign, it would read, “Happy Father’s Day! We missed you! Welcome home!”


Melissa Gould’s essays have been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, Buzzfeed and more. She is an award-winning screenwriter who has worked on shows such as Bill Nye the Science Guy, Beverly Hills 90210, Party of Five, and Lizzie McGuire. Her memoir, Widowish, debuted at #1 on Amazon in several categories including grief, memoir, and Jewish biographies. It is an Amazon Editors Pick & @goodreads Top 48 Book of 2021. Widowish is available wherever books are sold. Find Melissa at www.widowish.com and on Instagram at MelissaGould_Author.