Rather than subjecting you to a year-end “best of 2012” post, I decided to fire-up the Wayback Machine to share something that I wrote long before I started blogging. This story was written on March 13, 1996, when my 20-year old daughter was three. It’s one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it. Happy New Year!
“My daughter is still of the age where to watch me juggle two balls is magic.”
Standing there, performing for my daughter, I struggle to keep both balls aloft — not so much for a lack of dexterity on my part, but because I cannot resist staring back into her gaze of amazement. I have seen her tiny features transformed from a cherubic likeness to those that are now distinctly her own — as if chiseled from the hand of Michelangelo himself. She looks up to me with unyielding trust and an expression that evinces a discernible air of confidence that I will always be there for her. The level of satisfaction is so complete as to cause me to breathe deep the heavy air of responsibility. I am both elated and frightened — each with equal intensity. How can I possibly make all the right decisions? How can I ensure that she will look back upon these times with a sense of having been loved? These worries are undoubtedly not new, for every parent must surely feel similar pangs of trepidation, yet the knowledge that this is most likely a universal anxiety does little to ease my mind.
She likes to roughhouse with me and releases the loudest, most heartfelt laughter when engaged in this type of play. As she grows, I increasingly feel the sting of a once harmless slap to the cheek. She’s getting stronger every day. The crick in my neck, from a too firm grip while playing horsey, tells me so. We play anyway, because I’d rather feel discomfort than disappoint. Call it my contribution to the stereotypical fatherly weakness.
My little girl won’t always be little, and that is a frightening thought. When the teenage years arrive, I pity the early prospectors for her attention; for I am certain that I will not take it well.
But those years are still far off and there are more immediate concerns. It makes no sense to look too far into the future because in doing so we risk missing the present.
I had a birthday yesterday. I didn’t feel any sense of having achieved any particular milestone since thirty-six is not divisible by five or ten. I did however get up early in the morning to allow myself some moments of quiet reflection.
George Burns died last weekend.
Although he lived to see his hundredth birthday, I had a sense that he died too soon. What does that say for the rest of us? For me, it says that time is precious and that while we do not have the power to stipulate the place or time of our leaving we can control the use of it while we are able.
My daughter didn’t care about any of that. To her, it was Daddy’s birthday– whatever that meant. When I finally did return home from work, my wife reported that my little girl had dutifully practiced the birthday song all day long. Upon hearing this, I anxiously awaited her special rendition. The candles lit, I turned off the lights, sat back, and awaited the serenade. I looked into her eyes and said, “I’m ready.”
She would not sing. The long rehearsed tribute was undone by an unforeseen fit of shyness. The candles were melting onto the cake, so I made my wish and blew them out.
Maybe next year.
I was reminded of this story this morning, when I read a post by Neal Call. After commenting here, of course, I recommend that you visit Neal’s blog and read On holding hands (a meditation on being a father). He writes well and I think that you’ll enjoy his post.