Friday, September 06, 2002

Yesterday she was little and she was getting plastic tubes put in her ears. For some reason her little Eustachian tubes retained fluid and it messed with her ability to hear properly. It gave her earaches. Little girls with earaches are very unhappy little girls. They are also very tearful little girls. The doctors were going to have to put her to sleep and that made it “surgery.” I don’t think she was even five. Five year olds should not have to have surgery. I remember holding her in the rocking chair and telling her all about what the doctor was going to do and what it would be like. She was a little bit afraid but not too much. She seemed to be at peace because she knew that I knew what was going to happen. And if it was ok with me then it was ok with her. We sat there that night and read, “Curious George Goes To The Hospital.” Old George sure got us through a lot of tight spots back in those days. I’m indebted to that little monkey.

I wonder if they have a book named, “Curious George Gets Left At Home While His FiancĂ©e Goes To Martha’s Vineyard To Study For Three Months.” I am thinking that they probably do not. But if they did I would put her on my lap tonight and stoke her hair while I read it to her. I doubt that it would carry the same magical powers that it did so many years ago. But I would try. Oh how I would try.

In August of 1983 I got on a big bus and left with teenagers for Washington D.C. She was sad to see me go. And she was worried about me. I packed my bags and got on the bus and left her tearfully watching from her mother’s arms. That evening I opened my suitcase to find something to sleep in. Instead I found a small stuffed animal. It was her favorite one. She knew that I would be gone for a long, long, time as kid clocks go. It was important to her that I have something to love me while I was away. It worked. That little bear wasn’t more than a few feet away from me all week.

Now she is 21 years old. I am not at all sure how that happened seeing as how it’s only been a couple of years since that trip. But I lay the calendar next to her birth certificate and sure enough it’s been 18 years. Life is funny. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.

Another man holds the keys to her heart tonight. I do not feel badly about that. He’s quite a guy. I’m in the middle of writing a marriage ceremony that I will speak over them in just 4 months and 5 days. When I give the word they will become a real life married couple. He will make her smile on that day. But today he is making her sad. And that makes me sad. The sun has always been a little brighter when she smiles. When she cries I too have seen the clouds and felt the storm. He is packing his bags and he is going away for a little while. A long, long, time as lovers clocks go. I would not be at all surprised if he finds a bear in his luggage when he arrives on the island. He might not understand but I’ll be happy to explain it to him.

What is a father to do when the kids move out of the reach of Curious George? What do you do when a surgeon cannot fix her ache? I think that in a case like that a father takes the next afternoon and evening off. I think that he forgets about work and responsibilities. It would be a little ridiculous to pick her up and rock her and read her stories. Instead he takes her to dinner and he talks to her like the adult she has become. He tells her that he is proud of her and of all that she is becoming. He tells her that it is a wonderful thing to slide into second place behind this new young man. But that is the only lie he tells her. He is speaking the truth when he tells her that his heart is filled with joy to see how happy she is. He is being honest when he talks about her future with this new gentleman and how bright it is. And he has zero regrets. You see, this is the day he has raised her for. He is seeing his dream come true. He does not want to turn time back. He does not want her to remain single and in his home. Life is too good and God’s gift of a mate is to enjoyable for her to miss!

And yet still… there is a strange sadness. A hole has developed in the father's heart and it is as empty as her room is about to become. Those walls are covered with posters and pictures, the emblem of a teenager turned adult. The walls of the hole are plastered with silent memories of gleeful moments gone by. A smart father will take the hole and make it bigger. He will stretch it and pull on it and tug it wide open. A smart father will make that hole wide enough for two people to fit into. It will hurt a bit at first. Stretching and pulling most always hurt. But when it is all done... when the stretching and pulling and tugging are enough... his little girl and her husband will both fit quite comfortable inside it. And then the pain will become the fullness of joy.

Hey, it’s called life and it happens. You do life or it does you. Good things often taste bitter-sweet. I have a small poster I purchased and stuck on my refrigerator door. It is a quote from John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. John lived from 1647 until 1680. My math tells me he died at 33 years old. Three children will do that to a man. Anyway, the poster says, "Before I was married I had three theories about raising children. Now I have three children and no theories." Truth is often poetic.

Speaking of poetry, how is this one. For 3 months she will say goodnight to her Romeo over the phone. She will learn the secret of how precious love is and how important it is to savor every moment of your lover’s presence. He will learn the same things. And he will also learn that there isn’t another woman on the face of the planet that can hold a candle to the one God has given him. The tubes? They fell out. Curious George? He got stuffed into a box in the back of the closet. They were just construction materials I used in the creation of a work of art that would leave Rembrandt awestruck. She is the painting. This new young man… he is the frame. And together they will decorate the hall of my soul.

Debbie. Tammy. Reda. Butch. Judy. We did good.