Monday, June 20, 2016

Fathers' Day



A Dad's Meditation on Fathers' Day

My girl.

From her smallest form, I nurtured her. Picked her up when she cried. And stowed bottles of formula in the fridge. One, two, three. I can microwave them when she stirs. Or put them in warm water. You know. Sprinkle the milk on my wrist to check the temperature? If I don't scream it's OK for the baby? Right? I was out of my league.

I slept soundly through loud noises from the garage across the street, but woke suddenly to a brief sigh from the next room. I built a changing table for her, with drawers for diapers and lotions, powders and cream. The first time I changed her after bringing her home from the hospital, the room with the table was cold and she turned blue! I BROKE MY BABY! God, what a bad dad am I!

She was bundled and secure. Oshkosh B'goshed and perfect in pink! When she had the croup, I put her in a carriage and placed my foot on the axel. I rocked her back and forth, back and forth, night after night, to sooth and comfort her while I read a book. Then placed her gently into her crib. Night after night. Until she was at peace.

And the reading! When she was of an inquisitive age? Lowly Worm! Care Bears! Narnia! Alice! Oz! Middle Earth! All the classics of youth that she and I could discover together! Look! Point! Read! Learn! Night after night we looked forward to reading time!

And so she grew. And grew. Brownies. Girl scouts. Kindergarten. A project for her dad on fathers' day. She made a car air freshener for me as a Girl Scout project. A bit of felt cut into a star with a drop of vanilla as an air freshener and a string to hang from my car mirror. I've had it in every car I've owned since then for the past twenty five years. And will have it in every future one forever.

And then we were own our own. She, an eleven year old girl and me, a clueless near forty year old father.

And then the first day that I had to go to work and she had to stay at home, alone. We had placed phone numbers on the fridge. Grammy. Uncle Dan. 911. Me at work. They were all available and nearby at a moment's call. We rehearsed it all. She's a smart girl. She can take care of herself. So, I left her in the kitchen, got in my car and drove down the driveway. As I looked in the mirror, I saw her running out of the house. To me. For me. What do I do? I could feel the terror in her, even through the steel of the car! If I went back I knew I could never leave again. Never teach her to be on her own.

And if I left?

I cried all the way to work.

She was OK. She is strong. Stronger than her father.

I came home from work once to a kitchen filled with baking powder. No, she hadn't been baking. She had made some toast and it had started to burn, so she got the fire extinguisher and proceeded to blast the ever living daylights out of the kitchen. Take that, toast! I couldn't have been prouder. She had a challenge. And faced it. And prevailed. Take that, life!

And she became an adolescent. And a young lady. And a lady. And I watched. And participated. And stood back. And gnawed my fingernails as she navigated waters I dared not plumb! She was a seventeen year old girl subletting an apartment for the Summer in Boston with a girlfriend and pouring coffee by Quincy Market. A college student making her own rules and recklessly breaking a lot of mine. She spent a summer in Manhattan living in a friend's shoebox apartment, sleeping on the couch and doing, I don't have a clue what. School, I think? She brought boys home that she proceeded to eviscerate. One tough chick here. Friends would ask me how could I let Krisitin do that. “Let?” I asked. “There’s no ‘Let’ about it. You try stopping her!”

I held my breath and ventured my opinion only if I thought it might be heeded. And I hurt inside, wanting to help and guide, but also wanting to let her find her own way.

Where is the little girl I read to before nightnight? She's gone. And she is here in her place.

My girl.

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