Uppermost house: Nine hours for a certain girl

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

My daughter’s boyfriend drove over from Rochester, N.Y. last week. Amanda had met Tim in college and although I’d heard a lot about him, he and I had never had any face time — we Skyped once, but I wore my bathrobe so it didn’t really count.

After a nine-hour drive, Tim knocked on our door wearing tight black Oxford shoes, dress pants and a sport coat. He reached out a firm hand, but I just ignored it and grabbed him in a bear hug. I had considered greeting Tim in a more interesting way, like wrapped in a towel and holding a shotgun, or with sweat pants pulled up under my armpits, or perhaps wearing a shirt made out of aluminum foil, but my wife Karen had encouraged me not to. “Can’t you not be weird, just once?” she pleaded.

Mandy was still at work when Tim arrived, so we sat him down in the kitchen and shoveled food toward him while we all got acquainted. He hadn’t eaten since the turnpike and so inhaled everything. We’d been warned about his metabolism and had stocked up.

After a pleasant hour, Mandy came bursting in the door and the house erupted with her inevitable lightness and smiles and laughter and wide-open arms.

Over the next few days, Mandy showed Tim the highlights of the area and he became suspicious that we lived at the very edge of the earth — if they’d had enough time to go to the dump store he would have been convinced.

It was clear that Mandy and Tim were blind to virtually everything but each other (had the moon dropped from the sky into the field next to our barn, I doubt they would have noticed), yet they still seemed delighted to have us around.

One night, we all went out to a lovely dinner, two virtual vegans (us) between dedicated carnivores (them). On another day, we went ice skating, Mandy and I zipping around forward and backward and linking arms and spinning around and tossing wadded-up gloves back and forth and laughing as if all the years the two of us had spent together on the ice had ended just last Tuesday. Tim and Karen held their own, but with slightly less velocity and not as much hollering. We agreed to meet later to go bowling, but Karen and I ran a little late and when we got there we found Mandy and Tim already five frames ahead. As we walked in, my 20-year-old daughter, a college junior, all grown up and nearly on her own, yelled, “Oh, you guys are finally here!” and the next thing I knew she had her arms around my neck.

On another night, the four of us clustered on the couch, huddled under the same blanket, arms and legs everywhere and watched a movie. “Gosh, this must be just like the 1950s when people got their first TV,” Mandy said.

Late on the night before Tim was to leave, Mandy called from a friend’s house. She and Tim were going to be very late and she wondered if her mom and I could drop her car off at our mechanic’s so he could fix her busted bumper the next morning. Karen was fresh out of the shower and wrapped in towels and I was ready for pajamas myself, but our daughter melted us and we said sure. “Oh Dad, thanks!” Mandy said. Karen tossed on a bathrobe and shoes and I warmed up the cars and then we headed out into the cold to make the exchange.

On his way home to New York, Tim stopped by my office. We sat together for nearly an hour, just the two of us, the conversation dropping deeper and deeper until we reached such a warm and transparent and vulnerable and trusting place that you might think we’d been friends for years. I tried to tell him how much my daughter meant to me, but stumbled and lost most of my words and he had to just read it in my eyes. Just before he left, we prayed together, finding common ground in an even deeper place.

Driving home from work that evening, I thought about Tim, a fine young man, perhaps my future son-in-law, vibrant and happy and dreaming big and at the same tender age I had been when I first fell in love. It all made me wonder: Would I still drive nine hours in painful shoes just for a certain girl? And when I walked into the house there was Karen, all lightness and smiles with her arms outstretched. Yes, of course I would.

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