Monday, December 29, 2014
It was a cold night. A clear night. I remember the brightness of the moon and the stars.
Bailey's birth day.
She was born at 12:30 a.m. in Presbyterian Hospital. Living here now, no one had ever heard of Presbyterian before the Ebola scare a few months ago.
On New Year's Eve that year, Bailey went home. First time out of the hospital. A little scary. We were rolling down the Tollway, and ERRP. That night, after finally getting her to sleep, she awoke sometime with the loudest wail I have ever heard. It seemed to have a physical presence and bounce from wall to wall.
Things were different, it was apparent. And so was I.
There were a few scares. She had a temperature spike past 100 degrees at about five or six months that happened on a Sunday; we rushed her to Parkland Hospital's emergency room. We were all terrified. Infants are so fragile.
You remember when they were sick; I guess it's the protective gene kicking in. Bailey was never really a sickly child, but I can remember when she was really under the weather.
But you remember the fun stuff too. She loved to swim, loved the water. She had a bit of adventurer in her; it wouldn't be surprising to see her pursue outdoor things at some point. When she was about 10, I lived at a big apartment complex that had an elevated area walled off with a 10-foot stone wall. As we walked past, she made an abrupt right turn and headed straight for it, and began climbing. It was ballsy, kind of hilarious.
I still feel guilt at the times I made her unhappy. She didn't like me fussing over her hair sometimes. As a soccer dad, instead of just letting her enjoy what she was doing, I projected too much onto her. When I moved to California, she cried and I bawled on the plane for an hour. Children should never have to pay for the mistakes of a parent. I'm sorry, Bailey.
She got that competitive fire eventually. She took up tennis, and got pretty good at it. The first time we played, I thought "Don't try and fire aces at her." No worries; she won handily. Then I thought "OK, now assert yourself." She won handily.
Now I was irritated. "Teach her a lesson!"
She won handily.
Eventually I won a set from her, but I had to resort to drop shots and cheap moves and generally being as underhanded as possible. It's the only time I ever won.
A few years ago it didn't seem like our relationship was as good as it could be. Most of that is on me; I didn't live nearby anymore. And teenagers just don't have a lot of interest in their parents.
I didn't really know what to do, I knew I missed her. The hardest thing to do is be comfortable with time sorting things out.
Bailey went to college, and I moved to Boston. I watched from afar. I didn't see her for almost two years.
But she visited last summer, and she'll visit next week.
She's young, but not a child. She's interesting and seeing the world from a different perspective. She's herself, and that's a good thing, and something that a father has to learn about too. I think parents want to see some of their own imprint manifest itself -- but only the good parts. I'm glad she has my height and my smart-assery. Although sometimes a little less smart-assery would not be bad. I got myself into trouble.
Someone once told me "I can't make your mistakes for you."
I want the lessons Bailey learns to have soft landings. Some mistakes leave marks; those are good. Hopefully there aren't too many that leave scars.
How can my daughter be 21?
James Taylor wrote, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." That's not an easy thing to do. I missed big chunks of Bailey's life, but that happens to everyone. It bugs me at times like these, but on the other hand... she's in a good spot in her life, and so am I. And in the last year or so, our relationship has gotten better and better.
She's more focused than I was at her age. She's working toward her goals and is not making mistakes I made. Well, most of them. I'm super proud of that, super proud of her.
Happy birthday, my sweetie.