Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Everything's Fine

Yesterday, I backed the rental minivan out from a carport near the campus of Tulane University. When I got to the corner, I took a last look through the sideview mirror at the low-slung duplex with bananas growing in the backyard. Inside, I knew my daughter was tearfully adjusting to being alone in the space she so eagerly sought and cheerfully decorated. Next to me in the van, her mother tearfully adjusted to leaving her beloved daughter behind. I willed back the waterworks - the streets of New Orleans still require sharp vision to dodge deep holes and buckling pavement - but drove with a thick lump in my throat.

It was a great summer. She has a fantastic wit, a humorous command of slang and a sharply observant eye for the foibles and fashions of those around her. This summer, she socialized with our friends, invited her friends to our home, and adopted Ancillary Adams as a brother. "Dad" and "mom" have been mostly abandoned in favor of our first names, except when asking a favor. Or when saying goodbye a few seconds before we left.

Despite the tears, everything is fine. She's completely capable of setting up a household, starting up utilities, and assembling furniture without my participation. She's happy to accept a little help, but we all knew she didn't need us there, really. She's plenty resourceful. She'll expand her cooking well beyond mac cheese and sandwiches over the coming months, and she won't scream for me to dispatch the occasional tropical-sized New Orleans bug. She dodged Katrina, for Pete's sake; she's capable enough to handle what's ahead of her.

The change in dependency is profound. She's 21, and living in one of America's most dangerous but alluring cities. Next year, she may well be starting two years in a country I couldn't find on a map today. Over the summer, I teased her about being dependent on her hair straightener, but her interest in the third world demonstrates that it's not a dependency, but merely something that's nice to have around when it fits into her life.

I could learn a lesson here, I suppose. If dependency is the key to our relationship, maturation will weaken the bond until it scarcely exists at all.

The tears yesterday didn't come from fear or from concern that she couldn't meet the challenges ahead of her. She's well-equipped with brains and street-savvy to tearlessly wave goodbye to whatever assistance we could offer. Our help, while generously given and gratefully accepted, was nothing.

This is what we raised her for. From birth, we knew she would go forth into the world and change it for the better. We didn't seek to bring her up as someone who would seek our advice and approval for every decision, though we were there with both if she wanted them. We never believed her when she, as a little girl, spoke of buying the house next door and walking with us to the Circle K to buy slushies. It was a heart-warming fantasy, but we never really wanted that result, and we certainly won't be getting it.

The tears yesterday, and the lump in my throat, did not come from something amiss. None of us were surprised, or disappointed, or hurt. While I don't yet know what the future holds for our little girl, that lack of clarity brings expanded horizons instead of trepidation.

Nothing's wrong. I just miss her. But, really, everything's fine.

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Blogger Keith Sader said...

Well done Dad.

8/19/2008 8:50 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I predict big things for that one. She is a great kid and an even better adopted little sis. You'll probably be fine too, what with your scores of cyberfriends always ready to give you some tough love.

8/19/2008 9:36 AM  
Blogger Melinda said...

Dan, you're a schmuck. (Feel better?)

You're not supposed to make me tear up at work.

8/19/2008 11:13 AM  
Anonymous ali said...

thanks daddy, love you.

(and i appreciate the name baby mild being lift out.)

8/19/2008 1:01 PM  
Anonymous gmc70 said...

Dan -

We don't agree on much politically, but you say so well what I often feel as a father of three boys who are likewise moving (slowly and fitfully!)out of the house. One's in school. The second Marine is at 29 Palms; the first Marine is recently married and going to school, and he's informed us recently that he's planning to volunteer for a second tour in the sandbox. I wish he wouldn't do that, but I cannot tell you how proud I am of him.

Our kids are our faith in, and reach into, the future. They will change that future, perhaps in ways we don't expect. As we did, with our parents. As it should be.

8/19/2008 4:09 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

GMC - Please pass my thanks on to your sons in the Marines. That's an astounding commitment - you must be incredibly proud of your family.

8/19/2008 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight, you helped your daughter move to the murder capital of the country?

8/19/2008 10:47 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

You betcha. Somebody needs to get those people to stop clownin'. She'll straighten things out.

8/19/2008 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's great Dan. Watching your kids walk down the right path should bring a smile a million times the size of that lump. I'm sure you already have it, but if not, it will come soon. It happens to the best of us.

8/20/2008 12:42 AM  
Blogger Spyder said...

Dan, You & Mrs. Mild have done a great job on both both of your kids.

8/24/2008 3:45 PM  
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