Another milestone, another tear. Should I have been prepared for this one, knowing it too was coming? I already faced the mixed bag of emotions when my eldest reached sixteen, realizing that the path I have chosen, the burden I have so eagerly, gleefully placed upon on my shoulders is coming to fruition. Fatherhood cannot be all rainbows, glitter and unicorn poop; one day you blink and she’s standing at the altar with someone you want to trust to love her and adore her with the same abandon that you have had her whole life. But the years have been kind to me; I have been part of the lives of two of the most beautiful souls I have ever come across. I could only have hoped that it would have lasted longer, ebbed away instead of hurtling away at the speed of light. Can’t we cuddle on the couch just one more time? We’ll see if we can find “Clifford” on PBS like we used to. Just us; no boys, no school, no Drivers-Ed, no world outside of “dad and daddy’s little girl” where I know you’ll always be safe and I know I’ll always be in your heart. We never heard the alarm of the dreaded “father clock”; can’t we linger just a little longer? I promise, I’ll make a ridiculously huge bucket of popcorn, just like I used to.

The things we remember make us who we are...

The things we remember make us who we are…

No, we can’t linger any longer. You’re running headlong into the world and I couldn’t be prouder. The memories we shared will forever play in my nighttime theater, old black and white reels of giggles and adventures. I remember when it wasn’t safe for me to kneel down on all fours to peer under the couch or a chair for a lost toy; it was always an open invitation for you to leap onto my back, demanding to be ridden around the living room until I was exhausted, breathless from the task and the uncontrollable laughter. It was always thus with you; you are joy incarnate, a deep resounding appreciation of life, love, friends and laughter. You are the light in any room; an easy, inviting soul. I can even see it in the eyes of your many friends who look to you for inspiration, acceptance or comfort. It is so rewarding to see you touch so many people the way you have touched me.

I may have been somewhat melancholy before; it is different with you. You are my baby, my last child. Yet, I only feel the apprehension of separation for you; I will always wish to be there for you. I’ll loosen my grip but I’ll never let go. But as I watched you grow into the young lady I now see before me, I took my own strength from your accomplishments, knowing that your depth of character, your remarkable intelligence tempered by a loving heart accompanied by a quirky, dry humor will endear you to many; I have yet to see you back down from a challenge, or fail at one. But your intelligence is only surpassed by your humility. The dignity you carry yourself with, and the deep respect and love you have for others is inspiring. Could I at least, in some small measure, claim that I had any contribution to the lovely soul which you have become? Or is that just vanity on my part? As I have said before, this is and has long been my calling:

I only want to be a good father. No greater responsibility can be placed on any man’s shoulders; No greater reward can be had.

I’m sorry, but I cannot allow myself to think that you have become the person you are now without me having some influence, however insignificant. A father’s pride I guess. Through the years, I spent many hours agonizing over if I was teaching you well, was I the father you deserved, did I do a good job…always agonizing over everything, every issue large and small, giving the same import to flowers that wilted to soon or pets that would pass unexpectedly. Did you have your helmet on? Were you climbing too high? Did you brush your teeth tonight? And through it all, you displayed a serene calmness, smile pasted on your face that seemed out of place for one so young; a lesson you took great pains to teach your father. I guess I always worried until the day you actually put the issue into perspective for me; “gee dad, I’m just not into all that drama.” I watch intently now as you navigate your life, seemingly frenetic to me, but barely giving you pause.

I only ask that you bear with me now. I’m sure I’ll embarrass you in front of your friends. Maybe I’ll get on your nerves asking about this grade, or details on this or that friend. Who are you with, when will you be back. You know, dad stuff. The stuff that lets me believe, lets me hope that I’m still important in your life, now that your life is so filled with things other than me. And always know that I am proud of you. I know you and your sister find it funny when I get all weepy; something I can’t control. Maybe a little too much drama.

But in the end, you are sixteen. And soon seventeen and then on and on. But the one constant is that I will always love you, I will always be proud of you. And I am more and more astounded by the person you have become and the possibilities that stretch out in front of you. My dear little Hannah; go on, get out there and own this world. I have no doubts that you’ll be successful in anything that you set your mind to. And don’t you ever look back.

Well, except once in a while to wave and to say “I love you, dad.”

After all, I still need a little drama…

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