Tuesday was my first day back at my work since the week before Christmas when I started on vacation (there were a lot of long faces in my building when I returned. Poor sports!). My daughter was home from college for the holidays and my son, who lives not all that faraway, came for Christmas dinner and it was, all in all, very nice. Considering how much I hate taking off I enjoyed this time off far more than I have in a long time, which in light of how goofy it got, I shouldn't have.
My daughter and I took turns being ill (perhaps we had independently arrived at the conclusion that my wife/her Mom didn't have enough on her mind already). I took the week of Christmas for two short-fuse doctor visits and a stop in the hospital's emergency room while my daughter took the week between the years into the early days of 2009. She was (including yesterday) to have three doctor appointments with two different doctors (one at a walk-in clinic on New Year's Eve day) and two different visits on two different days to the emergency room where my relief at being reassured she would 'be just fine' and 'her tests say she really is getting better' was tempered her stretched out looking very unwell, first in treatment room one and then in treatment room 31 (that's my little girl, always in the Top Forty!).
She went from being twenty-one years old to being twenty-one months old in my mind instantly.
Maybe the hardest thing about being a parent is to accept that while your child is an adult, she will always also be your child. (It may be harder for them to grasp than us, come to think of it.) When they hurt, you can't always make it better--whether they're three and have found a dead bird or when they're older and have had a relationship go South. Children are, I think, our deal with God.
When each of my two (my two? our two) was born, there was a moment of pure exhilaration such as I have never experienced even when when I met the woman I was to marry, or when she and I got married (but close).....This helpless, mewling, miniature human being becomes the center of your life. And the epicenter of your unending fascination. And the child remains as such for all the days that remain.
I'm not especially bright but even I fully grasp that my son is 26 and my daughter is 21 and that each of them has a complete, and-separate-from-mine, life. But there's a piece of me deep inside that skips a beat (and always will, I now know) when my daughter has a beer with dinner when we dine out with her (huh? I mean, seriously huh?), that doesn't let me sleep when I know my son is driving to or from Boston to visit friends and the weather is less than swellacious. It's not them, it's me and it's not just me, but us.
When for whatever reason I have either of them in the car when we swing by the local Stop and Shop to get something I (probably) forgot while out with my wife/their Mom, I'm tempted to park in the space designated for ‘customers with children.' After all, I rationalize to myself, they are my children. And then I sneak a sideways glance at them and watch them seeing the same sign and I know I'm absolutely NOT parking in that spot but I can't help but still smile because I know they know I thought about it really hard. I love embarrassing my children-I possess no other talent that impresses them quite so much.
There are so many things in this life I will never get done or get to do (those pony rides for my birthday come to mind), but I've accepted that when it's my time to die, I will miss my wife and children with my last breath and everything else will be, well, just everything else. As much as I am everyone in my family who came before me, to include lineage of whom I have no knowledge, my kids (our kids if I weren't such a stiff-necked bozo) will always be my children. Even as they, in turn, watch as their child struggles with a viral infection or a total eclipse of the heart. Even when, after all the science and worry, she really does get better. There's always a next time and a forever.