For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in dreams . . . You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
SHE LEFT us today. Oh, there have been other "leavings." But none has seemed so irreversible, so final.
"Salisbury State's little more than a two-hour drive away," I said, soothing her mother. But the words rang hollow. Geographical distance is not what troubles us. What is on both of our minds is the distance between different worlds, the distance experience can place between hearts.
In retrospect, we no doubt began to lose her upon her arrival. Leaving the womb was her first move toward self-sufficiency. As 18-year-old child-father, I was not particularly in tune with what her mother probably knew intuitively.
For me, her "weaning" became manifest with the "terrible twos." The independent little cuss let it be know that she was definitely her own person with a persistence that would have made any assertiveness trainer proud.
How quickly she grew!
Kindergarten and first grade were upon us before we knew it. Elementary school graduation, nylons, junior high school, make-up, boys, first dance, high school, driver's license, junior prom. People and events came and went rapidly, and her senior year, with its prom, graduation, senior week at Ocean City, left us breathless.
But during all of this time, home was still base. We were her sounding board, her mentors, her security. Now, for the first time, we'll be less involved in her life than other people. We will start to know her less well than others.
As I sit here, only hours after her sun-faded, blue Cavalier, jam-packed with paper, pens and typewriter, stuffed animals, soccer cleats, a care package of goodies and a department store-size collection of clothes, carried her off into the uncertainty of the future, I find myself remembering.
I can still feel that soft, plump baby asleep on my chest. I watch sparse, blond tufts of hair sway with each of my breaths. Johnson's baby powder, somehow reassuring, lingers in my nostrils.
And I recall an endless night when a feverish infant cried for hours, and I could do nothing about it. Eventually, we both slept, I through a history exam the next morning.
Eighteen years ago, an exhausted student-provider-husband-father would pull up in front of the house needing the relief only sleep could provide. The sight of a toddler's nearly bald head, barely visible above the window sill, bobbing with excitement because "Daddy's home," was my daily renewal.
I've missed such greetings. I've missed such unreserved adoration. I suppose it has gone the way of the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.
Perhaps I'm just mourning the passing of the last vestiges of what used to be.
I miss her terribly already.
Tony Myers writes from Linthicum.