Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flying The Coop (Fathers and Daughters)

By the time you’re reading this, my daughter’s Buick Regal is already miles down the road toward New York City and a new life. She’s leaving a good job, scores of great friends, and her true home – our house – to get a Master’s Degree and start a new profession. The nest was already empty, but she won’t be six miles away any more.

I remember the day several years ago when we picked out that Buick. She was driving one of our many family hand-me-down cars – a venerable old Plymouth Colt wagon with well over 100K on the odometer – when it reached that point when cost of repair exceeded value of vehicle. We test-drove several cars, and decided on the Buick. A good, safe, sensible car, with lots of life left in it – and brand-new tires to boot.

I taught her to drive in that old Colt wagon – can it really be more than 10 years ago? – and, like most other challenges in life, she mastered it quickly. I have no reason to doubt she’ll master the million challenges that lie ahead in her life.

And on this morning when the nest really becomes more empty, I’ll be thinking about all those other milestones in her life: my own personal tour of the UW campus, inflicted on her (and her brother before) when she became a UW student, complete with a stop at the Gritty for lunch; the time she had a blister from wearing too-small roller blades when she was about 12 years old, and finally showed it to me when it started hurting real bad – and I realized it had become septic and rushed her right to the doctor’s office, calling mom on the way, fearful of the worst, being assured by the doctor that she was going to be just fine…and a million other milestones and memories that will never fade, such as what’s become known in family lore as “the night of the bat”, when she woke me insisting there was a bat in her bedroom, my sleepy denials, and finally the spectacle of the bat flying all around the house, cats in full chase, until I coaxed it near the front door with a broom and her brother opened the door and let it fly into the night.

Yesterday I talked to her about that TV commercial that’s running now, where the dad is leaning into a car on the passenger’s side, giving driving advice to a young girl who appears to be about 4 years old, and then in the final scene she turns from a young child into a young woman, and I said to her “that’s pretty much the way it is” – and I told her, to me, she’ll always be that little tadpole in the green bathing suit that I’d pick up and throw into the pool, and she’d swim back, climb out, and she’d say “AGAIN!!!” until I was ready to drop from exhaustion, day after day in the endless summers of her youth.

Never mind that she’s grown up to be a smart, confident, independent, beautiful young woman who will turn 26 in a month. She’ll always be that little bitty girl who loved to be picked up and tossed into the pool, even after she gets that Master’s Degree and has established herself as a working professional in a new career.

Fathers and daughters. The nest just got a bit more empty; the pool just got a bit more lonely; that Buick is headed a long way from home; and though things are about to change a great deal, in many ways, they’ll always be the same.


  1. Beautiful stuff, Tim. I've got no kids, so I'll never feel these emotions the way you do, but this piece does a fine job of conveying them. Well done.

  2. Well I heart this piece too, old guy.
    (keep your basement open, they move back)

  3. Daughters? Yeah. I know. No matter how much you prepare yourself, when they leave, they'll break your heart.

  4. I am crying now because I have the little one who jumps in the pool again and again, and often imagine what it will be like when I can sit and read a book by the pool. Now I know when I can do that, I'll be missing the days when we hear "again and "again" and have the little one there in the green suit.
    Thanks for writing this and for reminding us all to love each stage.

  5. A wonderful tale, well-told.

    And the G K Chesterton allusion "Again!" ...

    Are you also a fan?

    BTW, I still have a daughter here if you'd like to rent one.