My daughter will leave for college in a few weeks. I am terrified. Not for the reasons you might think. She is smart, fun and driven. She knows what she wants and will make sure she gets there. She has worked three jobs this summer to make money; she knows things will be tight paying for college. She has applied for every scholarship imaginable. I know I have taught her right from wrong. If she does not now know the difference there is not much hope. She will party and have a good time. She will also remember why she is there – to learn.
I am terrified because I know my daughter will be leaving forever. She will come home for breaks and holidays. She will spend her summers in her familiar yellow painted bedroom. However, she will be gone. After college, she will move out and be on her own working, eventually falling in love, gaining a new family in time. Never again will she look at my home in the same light, it will be a stopping point, a place to sleep, a rest stop on life’s highway. I am terrified for me, how will I get along when she is gone?
We have not always agreed. I get pretty mad at her, probably a lot less than her aggravation at me. We are so much alike, it is scary. We laugh at the same things. We are both pig headed. Both are convinced of our inherent righteousness in every matter. The biggest difference is she is beautiful and good.
I remember the day my wife found out she was pregnant. We skipped the needle on my favorite John Cougar album, jumping for joy. I remember the night she was born. I came home from the hospital, elated, exhausted, and sobered by the enormous responsibility now placed on my shoulders. I had never even held a baby prior to that night!
I remember the nights driving her in the car, mile upon mile down the country roads through the cornfields. This was the only way to get her to sleep. Have you ever smelt corn growing in the field? That scent still reminds me of my baby girl, crying in her car seat as she drifted off to her sweet dreams.
I remember the afternoons I picked her up from the babysitter. We went to the park to swing endlessly; she could never get enough. She then would sleep on my shoulder in the old recliner until my wife came home from work. My little girl’s love of spicy foods was foretold the time she ate my chili as a toddler. She ate bowl after bowl, tears streaming down her cheeks. The chili was over spiced, the result of too much beer while cooking. She loved it.
My heart was ripped apart in her early teen years, when girls can be so mean to each other. I had no way to help her. Soon new friends came along. I watched her grow into a beautiful young woman in high school: class president, scholar, and friend to all. I am sorry I rode her too hard for her grades. I did not tell her enough that I love her.
Now she is leaving for education, adventure and excitement. In a small way, I envy her: too soon will she find the burdens of bills and work, and life. I hope she has fun, stays safe, and thinks sometimes about her Daddy. I will be thinking of her.