I’m in my apartment on a late Friday afternoon, the sun is low on the horizon and it streams through my dusty blinds sending shards of sunlight across my industrial beige carpet. As I am washing the few dishes that ever pile up these days I hear someone wrap their knuckles on the outside of my apartment wall from the hallway and my heart starts beating faster, that would be my daughter. When she opens the door I look at her and something is different, she seems older, wiser. It all conflicts with what’s in my head, I see her blue eyes and suddenly picture her picking rocks along the river, her tender little hands covered in dirt, her long hair draped over her rosy, soft cheeks. She’s eighteen now, she’s working, the hair still drapes over her cheeks, but she’s much taller now and her eyes are a little more narrowed, sharper, exposed.
As a father you know this time is coming, but somehow it escapes you when you’re at the park with them, or running errands or dropping them back off at their mother’s house for the week. Time slips away like the warmth from the day on a late fall afternoon, the chill creeps in before you know it and the light of the day wanes and falls out of sight. Suddenly they are adults, and they are busy all the time, they have a boyfriend and your love and support is not the only product in town. It’s a hard thing to contend with and it takes your breath away.
My little girl is packing her things, she is moving out and off to college in a few days, where did all those years go, her snuggling up in your arms late at night, holding your hand, her little fingers enveloped in yours. Soon she will move away, she will not be in the room down the hall, she won’t sit across from you at breakfast and her bed won’t be a mess when she leaves. Dinner becomes a little smaller and there’s an empty place on the sofa at the end of the day. I know this happening, its real time, I will support her in whatever she does and I know that once she moves away my world will forever be different, if not just a little more lonely. I forget it’s what we do as parents, it’s what we train these kids for, it’s why they go to school and it ought to be expected, but somehow the heart forgets and it breaks unexpectedly when it happens, you find yourself looking at her, hoping she will be safe, hoping she won’t forget about you, hoping she will thrive. You are proud but you are scared.
It’s amazing what our minds and our bodies do to protect us, how time flies by and your little children are now grown ups and they are saying goodbye, your heart stops, you find it hard to catch your breath and you can’t believe they are actually walking away. Life is hard and no matter how much we prepare, it always catches us off guard somehow. Take every moment you can with your kids, before you know it that look of excitement you used to see in their eyes when they saw you turns away to the future and what’s out there for them, cherish every hug and every kiss and know that the time is coming, be prideful for them, support them and always keep an open spot for them. The painful feeling, the hurt and loss you feel will fade, no matter how much you relish the realness of it and don’t want to let it go.