I’d like to have fined tuned a wicked vibrato. It’s a violin thing.
My body usually feels about ten years too old and my mind feels about ten years too young.
I sent her a video message in the family group chat thread this morning… cuz it’s her birthday.
Finding a span of time longer than fifteen minutes when some aspect of my life ISN’T in massive change, transition, overhaul or otherwise frustration-inducing upheaval.
Some days 20. Other days 80.
On the occasion of your ninth birthday.
Half way. That’s what you figured out this week. You’re half way to being all grown up, so you tell me. And, well, officially I guess you are right. Today marks the half way point between the day you were born and the day you become (at least legally) an adult. Your aunt even joked with me about it over the weekend: my dad job is half done.
It’s been a helluva year, your ninth year as you approached this wise old age. As much as we had fun travelling and adventuring and trying new things, sadly you’ve had to face some demons about yourself, you’ve grown up a little more, a little faster that any parent really wants. Life gets tougher, more competitive, filled with consequences that are less easy for your parents to hold at bay.
And then there was that moment I had dreaded from the day you were born, that painful shake on your shoulder when I had to wake you up shortly after midnight so that you could say a tearful goodbye to your dog. She had died at the foot of your parent’s bed, not long after you’d found out she was sick at all. I figured she’d see your twelfth birthday, at least, but she never even saw your ninth. A helluva summer. To short, too soon, too much.
You started fourth grade. That’s going well, so far, but it’s only been a couple weeks. Grade three was a tough year. A split class and a year long game of teacher musical chairs. You pulled through: straight As. Somehow. You’re pretty amazing, to be honest.
Last night, the night before your birthday you asked me if we could go “do something” and then suggested we take a blanket and some art supplies to the park, climb the hill and draw. So we hiked over there and spread out one of Sparkle’s old blankets on the grass, turned on some music, and we made some modest art. It was not only a neat way to run out the clock on your eight year old self, but I couldn’t help but think that it was also a bit of a microcosm of the last year, too. Trying new things, or old things in new spaces, or quietly spending time working and honing and enjoying this ever-shortening span of time that we get to be just a dad and his daughter, sitting above the chaos and looking down towards it all and hoping it passes at just the right and comfortable speed.
Welcome to the second half of your childhood, and…
Aches, pains, strains, heavy hearts, blurry minds, fuzzy vision, dimming hearing, and realizing that there’s not much you can do about any of it… except fight every single day to stay healthy and strong.
A realistic expectation that regardless of quality I might actually finish writing this damn novel.
After eight decades, apparently the Happy Birthday song is now in the public domain. It’s only a coincidence that this happened on Claire’s birthday. Really.
Watching the years race by so fast you can almost feel the breeze of them passing.
On the occasion of your eighth birthday.
We have fallen into a familiar pattern, you and I.
Our days have been filled with the ebb and flow of our quiet little lives, peppered with the routine of where your school life clashes with my work life, where my scattered interests overlap with your focused extra-curricular activities, meeting in the middle as a blunt collision resembling so much more than I really deserve.
You’re a better daughter than I could have asked for. You are clever and insightful, engaged and empathetic, and always patient with your parent’s expectations which are heaped upon your with all the weight and complexity one might expect from two over-achieving nerds who found each other, made a kid, and set her adrift in this crazy world. I mean, sure: there is friction and points of heated disagreement, but that is forever the undocumented chore which parents are charged with taking. Maybe someday you’ll thank me for letting you fumble through mistakes and fight against all those rules that probably seem so arbitrary at your age.
It’s been a year. Quite a year. Another year. A random year. An arbitrary year of nothing and everything and just this vague sort of year that will likely go ill-defined forever, for the future decades of your life. You were seven. I was something in my late-thirties. And you reminded me of my own age, mortality, and responsibility with every shared moment, uttered word, quiet thought, seized hug, or indifferent shrug.
We travelled and saw amazing things. Or sometimes not. Maybe we just hunkered down on the couch to do nothing more than play video games or watch bad television. We walked. We looked for treasures. We made art. We conspired against boredom and reveled in doing nothing not a day later. I forced you to try new things. I grumbled at your short attention span. I awed at your quick memory and your keen sense of humour. We talked much and we sat quietly together, too. The world has been ours to enjoy, and you’ve had a million questions about that world that stretch the limits of what I can explain to you.
I can’t say that I’m the best dad that the universe has ever known, but I know that I tried to do nothing less and if nothing else I was nearly always there to try that.
This morning, with twenty minutes of precious sleep still owed, you crawled into our bed and nuzzled up against me. Your mop of hair tickled my face and I woke up somewhere in the middle of all that. You leaned in close to my head and in a whisper freckled with palpable excitement you said, “Dad! I’m eight.”
“Happy birthday.” I muttered dozily, trying so badly not to drown your enthusiasm with my pre-dawn lack of sleep. How could I? After all, despite parties and gifts and food and revelry, you still seemed as if the best gift in the world was cuddling for a handful of precious moments with your parents before your day started.
Because, as familiar a pattern as we have, it is a good one. A comfortable one. A pattern that has wibbled and wobbled and changed and grown over the years, from just a dad tending to the care of this helpless kid, to now. Eight years later I get to be the father of a vibrant, glowing daughter who may not be perfect but is perfectly awesome.