|The (misspelled) signature is probably by my mother.|
Jennie and Mom were always close and Mom treated her like her own ninth child. In this card, Mom cut out the photo, a smidge unevenly, and misspelled Jenniffer's name, making the natural mistake of spelling it correctly.
The evening Jennie was born, I couldn't stand the pressure and strain of sitting with her mother for 18 hours of labor and rushed off to a bar, loading up. When I got back to the hospital, Jennie was a newborn and the nurse held her out to me.
"What is it?" I asked the nurse.
"A beautiful little girl," she said.
"I meant the species," I cracked.
The nurse took on a dark look, scrunched her brow and said, "Mr. Smith, this is not a joke. You are now a father."
I proceeded, in my unstable state, to misspell Jennie's name on the birth certificate and set the bar for fatherhood, which I have never exceeded. I have never been a good dad and I regret that.
Jennie and I, over the years, have always had a tempestuous relationship, mostly because I never learned to behave. Even these days, when I believe all our differences to be behind us, I do things I seriously regret. Jennie owns five dogs that she loves. I complain about barking dogs. She raises horses. I grumble that farm waste is ruining our water supply. She used to drive a long-haul truck. I talked constantly about how intimidating truckers were on the road. And our politics. I won't even go into that.
Truth is, though, that I love Jenniffer Christine Smith and will until the day I die. I just wish I could have shown it better over the years.