I’m not sure when it happened exactly. It certainly wasn’t overnight. But, over the course of the last several months a stark reality has emerged in my life and to be honest, it hurts. I mean, like really hurts. I’m talking constant daily reminders that life as you know it is over kind of hurt. What is it, you ask, that could so profoundly affect a 43 year old married father of two, with a terminal academic degree and tenure?
My daughter is no longer my little girl.
We were the “Brave Team.” We ran through dozens of silly nicknames for each other. We took forever to say goodnight as I tried to sneak out with her stuffed animals. We took naps together under the princess blanky on the couch. We fit perfectly side by side in my chair watching whatever cartoon, movie, or TV show she wanted. And the hugs…oh, the hugs. The kind of hugs that let you know you were someone’s universe, their center of gravity, and there was no one else on this earth that made them feel as safe as they do with you.
All now part of our past rather than our present.
These days it’s a smile and a wave. A side hug if I’m lucky. It’s a “night night” with not so much as a look back as she heads up the stairs, not needing (even wanting?) a “Daddy Express” piggy back ride. A text with a heart and a “Brave Team” emoji. Hoping that she’ll say “Hey, you know what?” and share something with me about her day. A few minutes in my truck at the bus stop, before she walks to the bus while “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac plays on the radio.
I suppose this fate, this reckoning, falls to every father of a daughter. Not that it makes it any easier. I’ve never told her this, but I know that someday she will meet someone who may love her “more” than I do. Certainly my father-in-law experienced the same feelings over 21 years ago. I understand now, as I’m sure he does, that no one will ever love my daughter like I do. I am strengthened by knowing that one day in her future, Audrey will slip her arm in mine for a short walk together before we go meet this person at the altar. If only for a brief moment, we’ll be the “Brave Team” again.
Originally published 3/12/16 at wpboyd.blogspot.com.