Amidst a downpour of mallards

I called home at the end of a workday last week and my youngest daughter answered the phone.

“Hi, Dad!” she said, cheerfully.

“Hi, Sweetie, what’s up for tonight?” I asked.

She told me that Mom was at work and afterward she’d be going to her ladies’ Bible study.

“So you’re going to be home all by yourself?”

“Yup, home alone.”

Suddenly, my plans for getting my oil changed and doing some errands and then going for a long evening trail run after work didn’t seem very important anymore.

“Hey, do you want to do nothing together tonight? Like, just hang out at the house and eat stupid food and watch movies? Just you and me?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’d be great!” she said.

And so we had ourselves a daddy-daughter date. I got in my car and rushed straight home and screeched the car into the garage and then jumped out and ran into the house. There was my girl, waiting right in front of the door when I yanked it open.

“Hey, if this is going to be the full couch-potato deal,” she said, rocking up on her tip-toes, “then can we go get Chinese takeout?”

And so it was back into the car for a quick spin into the village with all the windows rolled down and the sunroof open to the blue sky to grab a batch of chicken fingers with honey mustard on the side.

Returning home, we quickly settled in: shoes and socks off, pillows and blankets procured, blinds pulled down, plates, glasses, forks and napkins arranged, TV remotes located (all four of them), and one cat (out of two) cajoled into joining us. Then, we snuggled onto the couch, head-to-foot and all tangled up in each other, comfy against the soft pillows with a cat between us, and hunkered down for the long haul.

Hours later, with the dishes on the floor and the cat long gone, Mom came home and found us dozing off in the near dark and barely visible under the blankets. Once she figured out that we weren’t just a pile of laundry, she smiled.

“Oh, look at you two. Are you bonding?” she asked, giggling sweetly.

“I guess you could call it that,” my daughter mumbled. “All I know is that my right leg is completely asleep.”

A few nights later, while in the bathtub enjoying a good book, I heard a faint knock followed by an inquisitive small voice. Then, that same daughter creaked the door slowly open and chucked a hail of small rubber ducks up over the shower curtain to splash crazily all about me.

“I found these in my room and I thought you might be able to use them,” she said with obvious delight, and then she darted back out of the bathroom to tell her Mom what she had just done.

Lying there with my drippy book, with soap bubbles in my hair and a miniature mallard bobbing happily in the surf next to my left elbow, I thought for about the ten-thousandth time what an honor, privilege and blessing it was to be a dad; what a treasure my children were; and what a simple delight it was to watch them grow up. And I considered the time, all those fleeting minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years, all those collective moments that pile up one on top of the other to make a family, and I knew again as I’d always known — that if I could live it all over again I’d fill every second of my life with the small things of Everyday, with the laughter of my children, with spontaneous trips into town, with evenings on the couch under the covers, and with the random silliness of raining ducks.

It goes so fast, the time. Relentless. Almost without pausing. It’s now, and then it’s gone. My youngest daughter will be gone soon, too — I have her for just nine more precious weeks and then she’s off to catch a pre-dawn flight to a faraway city to begin her junior year at college.

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