The more one has to live for, the faster life seems to go careening past us.  I’d guess the corollary is true as well, somewhat depressing for obvious reasons.  I’m not feeling melancholy for my own age or mortality.  No, today I celebrate my eldest child’s entrance into her teens.  I couldn’t be happier for her.  For me, not so much.

It’s not about the terrible teen headaches, or the dating or all those types of “father-daughter” frictions I’m told the teen years will bring.  No, it’s just that last week, I’m sure it was last week, I was rocking her to sleep, trying desperately to find her pacifier between the couch cushions at two am.  Wasn’t it last week?  No, you’re right, last week I was teaching her to ride her first tricycle, or maybe, no, I know, I was taking her training wheels off.

They don’t tell you in the birthing room that when they place your newborn in your arms for the first time, it rips a hole in the time continuum and the laws of physics no longer apply.  You are now on the father clock.  The father clock runs incredibly fast, but ticks very hushed so as not to draw attention to the fact that the limited time you have with your child is running through your hands much like the sandbox sand that squirts from between her chubby two-year old fingers.

Go ahead honey, make a big splash on the world....

The father clock does not run in a linear fashion.  It will run agonizingly slow when she falls and scrapes her knee, or when you see the injury about to happen but you’re just out of reach.  I’m sure it’ll slow down during those times where I’ll say something stupid or painful to her, allowing me to wallow in my guilt.  Or, when she realizes there are other men in the world and I have to compete for her attention against hormonally unstable teen-aged demons who I’m sure are out to do her harm.   And just as soon as we’re out hiking together, riding our bikes or just sitting on the beach chatting, it’ll fly by unnoticed, with only our uneaten lunches as proof that time over took us and ran by unfettered.

I know that we have very little time left together.  This is not meant to be depressing in any way.  It is however, a warning: The father clock does not come with an alarm bell. She’s leaving.  One baby-step to teenage gait at a time. It’s slow and gradual right now, but one day it’ll be sudden, like the first startling flash of a spring thunderstorm.  Sudden, jarring, and you’ll wonder where the heck that came from.

The gifts are put away; I just nibbled a late piece of birthday cake.  The house is quiet, save for the low rhythmic rumbling of sleep coming from behind the bedroom doors.  I’m about ready to call it a day.  I’ll walk by the kid’s bedrooms like I do most nights, just to peek in or listen for their breathing.  Dad habit. Then it’s off to bed so I can get up and face the workday world tomorrow on a clock different than the father clock.  But before I fall asleep tonight, I’ll lie there with my eyes fixed on a distant target in the dark ceiling, listening for the ticking of her childhood as it races away from me.

And the father clock quietly strikes another hour ahead.

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