03 June 2016

Graduation Day

"Oh, Big A.

What you did to my heart, that moment first I saw you.

I could feel the heart within me rip and twist in ways I'd never known, in just that first second that I peered upon you.

There was a light, so bright, so clear and so true in that moment; it was piercing in its clarity, blinding in its rapture. Everything I had learned up to that moment, unlearned. Everything I thought that I had held dear, lying neglected upon the floor of my life as I worshiped at your altar.

I couldn't sleep, because I had to keep gazing upon you, making promises to you. I remember them, my little girl, and I will keep them. I just hadn't intended on them being so long in the making.

That night, so long and snowy ago. That night, only yesterday, wasn't it, sweet child? Wasn't it then, my little thing, that you first laid within the confines of my arms? Wasn't it only a minute ago that I first caressed your cheeks?


It wasn't.

I blinked, and then Ten."

I wrote those words to Big A as she celebrated her tenth birthday. 

In less than two years, a decade will have passed since I composed that letter to her. A decade. 

Tonight Big A will graduate from high school. For many years, what I wrote of her and I was mired in language containing references to navigating stormy seas, shores too distant to even hope that they might appear on the horizon, waves that pulled us under and left each of us trying to stay afloat. Keep kicking. Keep moving. Keep going until we reach the point where our feet can touch the bottom, then we can rest. 

We reached the shore. Walked up to it together, hand in hand, the sun shining down. We sank into the sands, listening to the waves roll back and forth, lulling us into a state of near bliss. We wondered how the waters could ever have been anything other than the beautiful sea that it is today. 

Big A has become one of my best friends, and I one of hers. I always thought that if we could just get through the rough teen years a day when we shared not just a parental relationship, but also a relationship of genuine love, acceptance and admiration would arrive. How fortunate am I to have been, for one of the few times in my life, correct about something that mattered so much? 

Incredibly fortunate. Incredibly blessed. Once I realized she loved me as madly as I loved her, not out of requirement, but out of genuine love, she delivered to me yet another gift: It became more and more difficult to dislike myself when I looked at her and Little A. It became almost impossible to speak to myself in the awful voice that I have over the years.

How could I dislike who I am; wish I were someone else; someone composed of more solid things like stoicism and navigational ability rather than tears that spring to my eyes not only in sorrow, but in joy, when so much of The A's lies within me and I within them? Do you know what self-love can do to a person? (I hope that you do.) 

Today, my God, today Big A is so much more than I could express here. Intelligent beyond measure. Beautiful beyond words. Sometimes I'll see her from a distance and it still takes a moment to realize that she is my daughter. That the confident, poised woman is the very same being who once I held within my arms.

Back to tonight. What happens tonight. Tonight the thoughts that I've been pushing away each time they'd slip through the cracks under the bolted and locked doors of my mind will no longer be thoughts; they will be reality. They'll no longer have to fight their way in through slivers of light; rather I will have to open the doors and greet them as I would an old friend, overcome by the beauty and blessing of the moment, while also rendered nearly stunned by the time that has passed. 

When Big A started kindergarten, I walked her to her classroom and watched as she entered. She never looked back to see if I were there. She didn't hesitate in the least. Instead she nearly ran to where the other children were assembling, her long blond braids swaying behind her. 

In a little over a month from tonight, Big A and a couple of friends will pull out from the drive of our home and trek across the country to Arizona. Two days later I'll land there to help her get settled into her new home. A few days after that, it will be Big A walking me to an entry; releasing my hand and she'll have to watch me walk away, hoping I'll be alright without her. I'll have to fly away from her; watch the town become smaller and smaller as the plane ascends into the clouds. 

It's not the graduation tonight that nearly undoes me each time I think about it, it's the thought of this moment that follows. It's the way that time circles back around. It's the way that you look at an adult, but still see a child. It's the way that a photo of your parents will catch you off guard as you wonder when their hair turned silver or wrinkles formed around their eyes. 

She tried on her cap and gown yesterday and it was almost impossible to remain standing. I smiled the brightest and truest smile that I could, for truly, I am infinitely proud of her and overcome by her existence and the promise of her future. 

Her being is a light, so bright, so clear and so true. Piercing in its clarity, blinding in its rapture. 


Wear sunscreen, Big A. 

Know which hands to shake and which hands to hold. 

(anywhere i go you go, my dear and whatever is done only by me is your doing, my darling)

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

All my love, always, 

Your roots will always be here, love. It's time to use those beautiful wings.

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