My daughter Sarah graduates tonight.
The math doesn’t add up. It wasn’t that long ago we brought her home from the maternity ward, a dark-haired, swarthy-skinned, wide-eyed little thing, half polecat and half princess. She was already spoiling for adventure and hunting mischief. And it was quite recently she was a feisty tyke, all of four, ready to take on a whole gang of nine-year-olds in the park behind our yard because they’d snatched her brother’s toy. There must have been four of five of them, but her fury terrified them into surrender. And, goodness, it was only a week ago, maybe three, she got her braces on, and then quick-as-you-blink got them off again.
You see what I mean. How we got from “It’s a girl!” to cap-and-gown involved some insidious time-warp, where years folded into minutes. We went from this to that in no time flat. We never had a moment to catch our breath. We never had enough hours to savour the girl at three, and ten, and 14, and now. Already I see this season hurtling by, brilliant and swiftly fading as a falling star.
In early September, I’ll drive Sarah and Cheryl to the Victoria airport. I’ll kiss them both goodbye. I’ll drive back down to the airport four days later to pick Cheryl up. But not Sarah. She’ll be gone, off to school in Quebec. And so that kiss goodbye will have to last several months, and the one after that several months again.
And this will be the rest of my life.
I find myself unprepared for this. That’s pathetic, I know, because nothing could have been more predictable: children come into our lives, disrupt them terribly, make us proud and make us gray, and then walk away. This is as it ought to be, and hard, even devastating, when it doesn’t happen like this. But it takes more getting used to than I’ve gotten used to. I’m still thinking my 20-year old son is just gone for a spell, soon to return to resume life among us. I’m still rummaging for exactly the right words to speak at these coming and goings, trying to find my balance, get my bearings, handle my emotions.
I keep thinking, How can they manage without me? when I know the real question is, How can I manage without them?
But this consoles me: I’d rather all this be so than not so.
Happy graduation, Sarah. I’m proud of you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, your feet on the ground, and your heart wide open to truth and grace. Love the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.
And don’t forget to call your dad.