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(pronounced Ko-Hane)
Dan is the Bram Stoker-nominated author of Plague of Darkness, Solomon’s Grave, and the critically-acclaimed Margaret's Ark. Writing as G. Daniel Gunn, he released Destroyer of Worlds and the novella (written with L.L.Soares) Nightmare in Greasepaint (Samhain Publishing),. His short stories have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, Apex Digest and many more. He and his family live in New England.

Friday, May 17, 2019

When Someday Becomes Tomorrow, for Amanda and Audrey



My two amazing daughters, Amanda and Audrey, are graduating college. In fact, Amanda has already graduated a few days earlier. Audrey's big moment is coming up tomorrow morning. I've been trying to write something around all of this for a week. What I keep coming up with are clumps of memories, what has stayed with me through the years. But it didn't feel enough. Too impersonal, more akin to those end of year summaries outlining the fun had since the last summary. Something was missing.

What makes a memory, and what do I truly remember about the family I helped bring into the world, and specifically the two little girls I held and hugged and loved from babyhood through this beginning phase of their adult lives?

What do I need to remember from a quarter century of being Dad?

Moments, laughing and crying and watching these beautiful people dance and run and pretend and dress up and snuggle as I read to them. I bought them clothes and got them to school and helped with homework but in the end, if I've been halfway decent with this parenting thing, I also watched them. The best gift we can give any child is what they crave the most: my valuable, personal attention.

Watch me, Daddy.

I watched them jump in the pool; do a dance; stand on one foot; perform a play they renamed "Rabbit" because "The Big Scary Haunted House" was too frightening a title. I watched them learn to cook, setup blankets and pillows in front of the TV for movie night, do a fashion show.

I listened, to the stories they made up, the things they did in school. To flute and piano recitals, the music washing over me grander than any symphony because this was music made by my daughters. Listened to their bad dreams, and without judgment their plans for the future. As parents we try to support their first steps towards any dream. I want to be a chef. I want to be an engineer. I want to be a cinematographer. I want to work in an office like on that TV show. I want to save the world. I want to step out and make my own mistakes but God willing I hope you're there if things go south and I need to call my Daddy.

I talked to them. Not my strongest suit. When I do speak it usually sounds like I'm thinking about something else. I've tried to be honest with my girls. Restraint when needed, when my opinion doesn’t matter in the moment, but offering encouragement or advice if I think it'll land in good soil. When they were little, I spoke to them as if they were big. Never speak down to the little ones; if they don't know what you mean, they'll ask.

I read, Harry Potter and Madeline and Get Fuzzy comic strips and that series of books with the cats. Curled up against a pillow at bedtime, opening a world of words for them. If I'm lucky, the memories of their childhood will be narrated by my voice. Share with your children the books and movies you loved as a kid, too. These are as much a part of you as any grand tradition carried through generations.

I watched them dance and let their joy break my heart (see below for a link to a classic entry on that topic that still makes me cry). Shouted and screamed and burst with pride as they raced to the finish line (then threw up). I laughed at the plays they wrote then performed, at the scary movies they made when they stole the video camera.

What advice would I leave future Dads (and Moms)? As a parent, never make the mistake of thinking their universe revolves around you, or take their acts of rebellion as a personal affront. At the very best, you will never be the center of their world, but always an anchor when it's needed. Video as much as you can, but don't pan the camera too quickly. People watching will throw up. On that note assume you'll get vomit on you often, and don’t assume when the kids get bigger that part ends.
Every now and then, make chocolate cake for breakfast (one very minor regret of mine, never having done that). Try to live your life with honesty and integrity, and assume they'll follow suit. Live out your faith with no hesitation, and pray for them every day. Don't shove any of it down their throats, but don't let them talk down about it. They'll follow your path, or make their own. You can’t control them. You can only love them.

Amanda and Audrey, I love you girls so much I want to cry if I think too hard about it. In a couple more days you will both be officially out of college and joining your amazing brother in "the real world" with all its possible roads before you. I'll continue to watch as the events of your life unfold, the good and the bad (there will always be both), and listen to you tell me about your adventures traveling the world or what you saw in the supermarket the other day.

I think we did OK with this family stuff, crazy and eclectic as it's become. I might not be able to give anything too big or shiny as a graduation gift, but I can always give my words. Hopefully, along with love and our shared memories of what has been, these will last a lifetime.

Dad.


Some related entries from days gone by:


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