Tuesday, April 13, 2010

As The Memories Swim Upstream

There is a lot of upside to being a parent. Do not misunderstand. It is a gig that carries with it the weight of a lifetime of responsibility, which of course (particularly if you are among the more unskilled practitioners of the "art" of parenting) manifests itself into countless opportunities to screw things up for your children. However, if you are lucky and you manage to minimize the damage you inflict upon your kids to non-lethal wounds (some may indeed be ugly and may take a considerable amount of time to heal), then you awaken one day to the reality that your children are now young adults. And the "other shoe" that comes as a chaser for that reality is that they are prepared to make their way in the world. A world in which you will likely (and appropriately) occupy a lesser orbit.

From the time our children were little, both Suz and Rob benefited from the steady and loving hand of their mother. Margaret is a marvel to me. Her ability to not simply do countless things well simultaneously but to devote the energy necessary to ensure that the little engine that could that is our household chugged along without incident year after year after year is nothing short of remarkable. In the universe that was their world as children, Suz and Rob never had to look too far to find the center. It was then as it is now. It is their mother. Margaret will tell you that she was ably assisted in her efforts by her parents and her grandmother. And indeed she was aided by the Howard Avenue Trinity. Neither of our kids would have grown into the adults they became without the countless hours they spent at the kitchen table with Nan, Nona and Grandpa Joe. As well-educated as each of them is, that table was their 3-minute record. At it they learned more than they ever learned in school.

And life being what life is, two-thirds of the Howard Avenue Trinity died prior to the moment in the life of each of my two kids when the growth process from little tike to independent adult was complete. It has been years since either has sat at the table on Howard Avenue on a day in, day out basis. Yet the lessons learned there when they were young are the lessons they have carried with them as they have grown - packed away for ready reference in the same passel as they have carried all that Margaret has taught them. It saddens me more than a bit that neither Nan nor Nona lived quite long enough to see the bounty of their labor bear fruit in the all-grown-up versions of Suz and Rob. Wherever they are I am sure they have an excellent view of all that has transpired in these parts since they have been gone and are driving all of their friends crazy bragging about the two of them. And they are smiling.

Today I am smiling too. I joined the team mid-stream as it were. I was not around at the moment of arrival for either Suz or Rob, joining our regularly scheduled program already in progress. It has been my great joy and my great privilege to watch two children who I have been fortunate enough to identify as my own - genetics notwithstanding - go about their business with the requisite combination of fortitude and aptitude. They are a constantly replenished source of pride.

Suz is counting down the days until she completes her Master's studies at Seton Hall. I think that she is closing in on the thirty-day until graduation mark, although I may be rounding up or down by a day or two (I hope like Hell there is not a quiz on this). She is a supremely talented student. She always has been. Her talent has always been matched in lockstep by her drive. And yesterday, after what I think was only a couple of weeks (but might have been longer than that), she found out that what she had hoped to do professionally is - in fact - exactly what she is going to do. The job she proclaimed her "Dream Job" when she interviewed for it last month is the job that is going to launch her professional career. Lift-off is set for mid-June 2010.

Whether she shall spend the forty-five years that follow Day One there, the forty-five days that follow Day One there or some other span of time along the span between those two poles I know not. It matters not. What matters is that the opportunity she worked damned hard to get, she has in fact gotten.

From the moment yesterday afternoon Margaret telephoned me to share Suz's news with me, I sat in my office with some half-assed wannabe Jack-O-Lantern grin on my face. As a parent, it is often tricky to negotiate that fine line between rooting hard for your child's success and trying to relive your youth vicariously through your child. Luckily for me - and my pint-sized little brain - the profession into which Suz is immersing herself involves concepts so far beyond my ability to comprehend that I have no difficulty remaining on the correct side of that line.

And cheering 'til I am hoarse.

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you


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