Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Lullaby of Life

I joined the parent business a bit further up the assembly line than most. I was not there at the time of conception or at the time of arrival. By the time I got here walking and talking had both been learned, potty training had been completed and the Terrible Twos were in the rear-view mirror.

There is a school of thought espoused by some that those of us who lack any genetic or biological connection to our children are something less than 100% parents. My schedule is pretty full. I do not pretend to be the poster child for "step" parents. Somewhere there is someone no doubt who wants the job. Hell there may be someone someplace who already has the job. If there is, I hope it pays well.

I do not think that the fact that Suzanne is not mine "genetically" has made me any less of a father than I would have been had I been in the hospital passing out cheesy cigars while Margaret was getting acquainted with her former tenant. No doubt that there are things that happened in Suzanne's life that happened before I was but a blip on her mother's radar screen and she on mine. Those things that happened before I met Margaret - and before I met Suzanne and Rob - include any number of which I have learned throughout the years. It is indisputable however that all three of them had a life before I entered the picture.

In Suz's case, she had lived about six and one-half years of her life before my arrival. While it is true that I missed all of the events that filled those years, I would like to think that over the course of the past eighteen and one-half years, I have been a part of a number of the important ones and I hope, whether directly or indirectly, that I was somehow involved in all of them.

It is mind-boggling to me that today Suzanne is 25 years old. It was either a lot of years ago or no time at all that she would steadfastly refuse to go to sleep without first being serenaded by Big Bunny and his idiotic "Ham and Cheese Sandwich" lullaby; which would then be followed nightly by her sneaking out of bed across the hall into the bathroom with a book to read for ten or fifteen minutes. It seems either less long ago or perhaps equally far away that she made the transition from little girl to young woman - leaving the nest to go to college.

If memory serves me correctly there was a very brief period of time when she was a freshman at Seton Hall during which she doubted herself. It struck me as odd that one so gifted could be felled by self-doubt and apprehension. I did not really know what to tell her. I was not sure how to make her feel as good about herself as Margaret and I did. As luck would have it, someone did.

I never have - to my memory - referred to Suzanne as my "stepdaughter". I have but one daughter; never had the need to add another. She is to me now what she was to me then (OK she is taller, significantly more expensive to feed and house and moderately more self-sufficient now) and what she shall be for the duration of my life. She is my daughter. She is a full 1/3 piece of what is undoubtedly the best part of me.

At age 25, she is fast approaching the point in her life where our little corner of the world is not going to be able to contain her. She has dreams and plans bigger than us. And there is not a damn thing at all wrong with that. For she is her mother's daughter and because she is a sizable part of her will always be here with us even after she has transitioned yet again from daughter into mother - adding a second lifelong title to the one she has borne so beautifully for a quarter-century already.

And who knows. If whoever it is who decides such things determines it is to be so, then maybe just maybe there will be one to whom Big Bunny can sing his trademark lullaby anew. Hell with a new baby in the house, he just might break down and learn a new tune altogether.

I look at my daughter, and I believe. Indeed I do. And I do so everyday; but especially on this one. Happy Birthday Suzanne!

-AK

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