Uppermost House: Waving at the offspring

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I thought I was alone in the house that evening so when I went in to take a bath I closed the curtain around the tub, but left the door half open. I’m lying there, gently simmering with a good book, and my 21-year-old daughter just walks right in.

“Oh! Hi Dad.”

“Yikes! I’m naked!”

“Um, considering where you are, if you weren’t naked, I’d be concerned.”

And then Amanda just sits down on the toilet seat and we spend the next 20 minutes talking about her day through a plastic curtain with butterflies on it. And then mom comes home and she’s all happy and she and Amanda go off into the kitchen to do something. I hear them jabbering away and laughing and I forget all about my book and just listen, and then I climb out and dry off and get dressed and go out to join them.

Two night’s later, I’m sitting on the couch with Amanda and the TV is on, but we’re not watching it. Our legs all tangled together. Just talking. It’s one o’clock in the morning.

“Oh, Mandy, after tonight this won’t be your home anymore. From now on you’ll just be a visitor.”

I’m a little choked up because she leaves in just a few hours to go off to New York to get her second college degree and, well, that just seems like it.

“Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll be back.”

And then my daughter smiles at me.

And I smile at her.

And we both secretly know that the other person’s smile is probably pretend.

Seven hours later, her car is choked full of twenty-one-year-old-college-girl-stuff and Amanda is sitting in the driver’s seat with her left leg out of the car and her foot still planted at home. I’m kneeling next to her with my right arm around the small of her back and she drapes her left arm over my shoulder. I’m telling her all sorts of important things like how often to get the oil changed and then we just talk about nothing for a few minutes and then we pray together and then I start to get up but she pulls me in and hugs me and we say, “I love you so much,” a bunch of times and then she lets go and lifts her foot off the ground and backs the car out of the garage and drives off into her life.

After our son, Jeremiah, graduated from college in 2007, he was home for just two weeks and then one day he and I are out on his boat on the lake and the phone rings in his pocket and he answers it and is just standing there holding his fishing rod and says, “Oh, wow, yes, I can do that!” And three days later he’s off to the airport so he can go to his new job working the oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. He visits us every month now, and brings his wife and new daughter.

You grow them up so they can go off on their own and then you know they’re ready and you think you’re ready and then off they go and you find out in a quick moment that they were ready, but you were not. And then you’re just sitting there thinking about your kids and typing away as fast as you can, trying to keep up with your pounding heart. But you can’t. And so you just stop and sob a little. Thankful for the time. Wishing there was more of it. Knowing there can’t be. Knowing that there isn’t supposed to be, and that God knows what He’s doing.

My daughter, my son, my friends.

I’ve stood in the middle of the road twice now, waving my arms and jumping up and down until the tail lights disappear around the distant corner by the field where we used to pick blueberries when the kids were little. That’s just about all I can take.

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