It seems like eons ago, and just yesterday, all at the same time — when Emilie graduated from high school. That’s where my pup blossomed as a student and a young woman. That was eight years ago.
During her four years of that period, she developed a friendship with another fine young lady, who quickly became an adopted daughter of Denise and me.
She was outgoing, happy and had that joie de vivre. She was one of those kids who came from two families, with her parents having divorced and remarried. She loved both her parents and her new siblings.
But I think she liked the stability of Emilie’s family life, and she was always welcome in the Jolivet home — an invitation she often utilized.
She called Denise mom and me, dad. We got to know her real mom and dad and they were good people — they liked us, and we, them.
One summer we took Emilie and her amiga on a four-day trip to the Big Apple. We hopped on an Amtrak and rode alongside Route 95 south to New York.
It was a great week of laughs, food, and fun — looking down over the metropolis from buildings that seemed to be a mile high, to simply people-watching in Times Square. It warms my heart to think of it now.
Shortly after the trip I got a phone call from our adopted daughter at 5:30 a.m. I knew that couldn’t be good. I answered and heard her choke out, “Dad, my dad died.” I tried my best to comfort her and gave the phone to Emilie. After Em hung up, I hugged Emilie as she sobbed, heart-broken for her best friend. The dad was a young man, at least 10 years younger than me. It was a total shock in more ways than one.
It was the most difficult call I’ve ever taken. I talked to my then-executive editor, Father Roger Landry about it, and I just broke down. He was there for me, as I had been for her just a few hours before.
Em and I were there for her during this difficult time. When we walked into the wake, she hugged me and said, ”Oh, dad.” There were more than one eyebrow raised at that, but she meant no disrespect to the man whom she loved and who raised her.
After the girls graduated, they stayed in touch, and we would invite her over anytime, and she spent a few Christmases with us.
Even when Em went to college, I would always shoot our third daughter an text for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and for Shark Week (she loves sharks) and she always cheerfully and gratefully responded.
Over the last four years or so, my texts went unanswered. She was getting older and may have even left the area and changed numbers. I just hoped she was OK. I just kept sending the texts anyway — this past Christmas was no exception, but no response.
Last Sunday, Father’s Day, I got texts from my kids wishing me a great day, and I loved it and them. Then one came in from my adopted daughter, saying how much she loved me and missed me, and Em and Denise.
I responded that she absolutely made my day. She said she often still thinks about us and will always love us.
I don’t know where she is. I didn’t ask. All I know is that she remembered me on Father’s Day. And that was the best Father’s Day gift I could have ever received.