Archive for the ‘daughters’ Category

She’s Off to the World of Work

2005 GymnasticsShe’s off – into the world of work and I’m torn between despair it would never happen and sadness that it has. “You’re not supposed to wear yoga pants, but everybody does.  I’m the rookie, so I can’t”  She had just given me a sideways glance, now she stared straight ahead as she talked in the car.  “I don’t want to go” she said flatly.  “I haven’t been paid yet so it seems like I’m working for nothing.  Maybe it’ll be better once I get paid”.   “What is it?” I asked. “Is it you don’t want to work, or you don’t want to be a rookie at work?”  Even though she thought it was rookie anxiety, I could sense it was more than that.

 

She had just graduated but school hadn’t prepared her for work.  Her loyal girl circle had acquainted her with the idea of work, but at the age of 18, she had never really experienced it first hand.  Cleaning one’s room and doing one’s own laundry were paltry facsimiles offering up no pay and little reward even if your mother insisted on the minimum of standards.  Years of advice on how to dress modestly, how to express your own opinion and be kind, how to follow something through to the end had not given any motivation for finding employment. In fact, from the eyes of a teenager, it was far more logical to ask your father to cover extracurricular expenses, knowing he would always come through.

 

I was instructed to pull the car up to the back parking lot, behind the building, facing the staff entrance.  We were early.  Like the guitar lesson that began on the hour, a ten minute margin of punctuality was deemed ill-timed as one cannot arrive that early. I instructed her on the laws that govern parents driving children to jobs.  “Joe says not to put my backpack in the lockers ’cause all the geeks do that.  She says I should put mine in the bathroom cubby.  But when I opened one of the cubbies, it was filled with all this junk and what happens if someone’s in the bathroom and you need your backpack?” Advice from a trusted source didn’t make it trustworthy advice. I told her to use her own common sense and to trust she could make choices based on her sense of right and wrong.

 

She was smart enough to realize that university wasn’t what she wanted right now.  I wanted her to take a leap and leave home, trying out life in another city.  I tried to convince her that an arts degree could help her find her way.  No, it would not necessarily assure her of employment, but life is about more than employment.  So I guess that makes me to blame for her sitting in the car on the drive to her first official employment trying to convince her that her attitude was all she had.  With the face she made, standing there in her new black dress pants that she claimed were too big, she did her best to promise she wouldn’t be hard to get along with.  I knew she wouldn’t be.  But it was more than just that.  She knew she needed to get going.  Get her life going; step out, find out what working was about.  It was time. As she held the car door, I leaned over from the driver’s seat, squinting up at her.  “You can’t control what comes to you.  All you have is your attitude, how you respond.”  I hoped it was enough. I watched from the car as she approached the staff entrance. Backpack complete with lunch – amazing in its own right. 

 

For a moment I was transported to the airport where she met up with the other members of the gymnastics team for a cross country competition.  I was the interloper then, watching as if it would confirm she would be safe. Now I sit in the car, making sure they open the door for her before I leave as if she needed me to wait.   She had pronounced her shift ended at 4:30 as if to impress upon me the importance of punctuality.  I think my heart went in that door with her. I know it will be waiting for her in the parking lot after work.

She’s Leaving Today

She was leaving today, but not so much unlike other trips; vacations, school, or to hang out with friends. She had her bags packed and any attempt to persuade her not to sandwich her laptop between her beach towel and her clothes went unheeded. I had to let her decide. However much I tried to influence, there was that point I had to let her decide. Plenty of help got her bags to the car and she settled in beside me for the drive to the airport.


The moments in life that present themselves while we are attending to the business of living, can be as quick as speed bumps, designed in a way to slow us down, stop our hurry, force us to pause and it is in those moments our hearts can fill with thanks or dread or something caught between the two thatt defies explanation. Maybe it’s the sadness of time that will not wait for you.


Her passion had turned toward rugby in high school and she struggled only briefly with inadequacy. She was impatient to become an expert. All of her ran down that field clutching that ball, not just her head filled with passing advice, not just her legs conditioned from years of gymnastics, not only her heart and lungs, protesting her lack of capacity, but all of her. Every fibre, every nerve, every sinew grabbed that opposing player to tackle, hovered in the wings to assess the play, ran when her time arrived and despaired when performance fell short of some inner expectation that pushed her for better. And she played. If the photo captured what it was, it was the same essence the coaches saw, because she played in every game in most of the minutes in every game and she only wore the scrum cap because her mother warned her the next concussion she suffered would be in the last rugby game she ever played.


I looked at her in the passenger seat and realized how much I wished I could have been like her when I was sixteen. But assessing the past with a measure of what might have been only deepens that sadness and at this moment, I only wanted her to share a sense of what I was feeling so I launched into the story of my father driving me to the airport not all that long ago. I was going to Italy. A dream. So much in life had eclipsed for me by then, the trip became pivotal to my personal liberation. It wasn’t an accident then that my husband had gone to work, my children had gone to school and my father came to drive me to the airport. He had lugged all four suitcases to the trunk of his car and I sat where my daughter was sitting now. I had no way of knowing he had but a couple of years to live. When all was arranged and my time to enter the passengers lounge approached, he stood with his hands in the pockets of his jacket, the one it seemed he never took off and the look on his face was a mixture of hope and pride, love and dreams and I hugged him goodbye, wishing he would just go already. Typically, I was impatient to begin the adventure and now I realize I missed what might have been the most important moment.


I had never known my father to spend money frivolously. He recorded every nickel ever spent; fearful to the end there would not be enough to see him off. But he gave me a thousand dollars to spend on my trip. An astronomical amount even then. He presented me with a National Geographic coffee table edition book “The Vatican” and had slipped inside the cover a neatly typed, one page epistle capturing his sentiments about Roman history and the Popes and how the auspicious occasion of my trip to the seat of the Roman Catholic church demanded a certain reverence. “Love Dad” he had written in pen at the bottom.


My daughter sat patiently while I wove the story to the point where I mentioned one thousand dollars and wide eyed with amazement she repeated the amount, just to be certain she understood. “Did he give you a thousand dollars to help pay for your trip?” she asked. “No. He gave me a thousand dollars just to spend as I wanted.” I tried to get past the money part and express the sadness I felt at my impatience with my father. I needn’t have bothered. We parked the car and from my change purse, I began to extract the change I would need for the meter when it occurred to me. I walked back from the meter to the car. She was heaving the suitcase from the trunk, collecting her sports bag from the back seat. “Should I put all my change in the meter?” I asked her. The flight didn’t leave until eleven o’clock and it was now quarter to ten. She understood. “If we go in there and all of your friends are there, will you want me to wait with you?” She didn’t have to reply. I understood. I wonder what my father had done. I never bothered to ask, it never occurred to him to ask me. I put all my money in the meter.


We walked together to the entrance. I carried her sports bag, she dragged her suitcase. Once inside it was obvious from the row of rugby hoodies that we would hug our goodbyes then and I would not blurt out all the hope and pride, love and dreams but quietly whisper in her ear; “I love you, be safe, I will pray for you.” I did not anticipate the tears – mine. How very strange it was to leave and drive home alone. How my father must have felt from a lifetime of seeing me off, tending to my wounds, making sure I was safe. I can’t be sure he knows how it has made me. My daughter will know, because I’ll continue to tell her his stories. Somehow they have become our story.

And thou shalt in thy daughter see…

Article05 She discovered The Alchemist on her own and took from it her favorite philosophy; “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” I ignore her but she does not stop loving, I become impatient and she keeps giving.  When I am frustrated with her distractions, she charges ahead anyway and wrestles her dreams into submission. She’s braver than I will ever be, more courageous in her deepest fears and a loyal and true friend of whom there will never be an equal. She’s amazed to see herself grow; I’m amazed it has happened so fast. Her laptop is aggravatingly slow and she dismisses the inconvenience as a chance for her to learn patience. She questions the insecurities of her friends, marveling they have such qualities – while believing she lacks their talent, their looks, their grace, ability, poise. In fact she has all of these wrapped in her heart, her brave and valiant heart that cries when touched by words, sings when lifted high and can remain defiant in the face of the most obstinate opposition.


I thought her an air head. The one who would not be still to read for if the book had no pictures, words could not entertain – an attention span that would quickly flit from subject to statement to question and answer. I viewed this distracted spontaneity as a lack of something; a lack of will, determination, persistence. But there has never been a simple piano ditty, that when once demonstrated, has been played as repeatedly, nor the lyrics to a popular song – used only in the construction of the chords on her guitar (for it is her guitar, it was never really mine) sung over and over and over again. I can’t understand the words; she knows them and their author. I can’t remember her many extracurricular activities, neither does she, but it doesn’t bother or cause her any grief. She laughs when caught in the middle of an event’s arrangements and realizes she knows where she is supposed to be but doesn’t have a clue on how to get there. A butterfly, she lights only briefly in the moments required to suck all the sweetness there is, all the satisfaction to be gained and then she flutters off.


She’ll move she said, to Italy – maybe not tomorrow, but perhaps someday. Was it me who showed her how to dream, can I be the one to take the credit? Or am I just the lucky one, who stands on the sidelines of her show, watching her sputter on the stage of life, trying on the different costumes, launching forward in her greatest role, singing at the top of her lungs
.

Words Past