In a couple of months, my dad will have been gone for five years.
The sting of his passing still strikes fresh, on those days I selfishly wish he could be here, when I want to pick his brain about life, get his opinions and advice. Have him on my team.
But also, same as the very morning we lost him, I am thankful for his release.
My dad was kind-hearted and he talked with his hands and there were certain deficiencies with some of his abilities. He dealt for so long with severe health conditions.
The same can be said of this man I see at my workplace every Tuesday morning. Oh, there are enough prominent differences that I see his individuality, but there’s also a little of my dad in there somewhere. The heart, the hands, the conditions.
Some mornings, when he says, “Hi, young lady,” in the same tone my dad would have, I reply quickly and rush off, before he can notice my watery eyes. Other mornings, we talk about the weather or about his family, and I am grateful for those occasional times I can pull away from my introversion for chit-chatting.
No exchange is profound. There is never a strong undercurrent of my dad himself. It’s just that the similarities bring me some small comfort, a glimpse of who my dad was—and still is in my heart—and that makes me happy.
The regular school year is over for my girls, who are ages 8.75 (Littlest) and 11 (Biggest). They wrapped up before Memorial Day, and have since begun a month-long summer program. Here in these parts, summer school is a loose, creative approach at superfluous learning, with no tests, free lunches, daily raffles, and an incentive to earn spending money, the balance for which grows larger the more days you attend. Here, summer school is not a requirement for faltering students or troublemakers, like back in the day.
Anyway, Monday after school Littlest had food—what looked like dried cheese sauce—on her face, either side of her mouth. Likely it had been there since her mid-day meal.
My heart swelled at the sight, because it meant she is still my little girl. She is getting big and becoming significantly independent, but not yet grown enough to find self-consciousness and think or care about whether or not her face is clean. She’s in between. I love that. And I didn’t make a fuss about the food because right now she deserves to float in that space before having to try so hard.
Biggest is at the cusp of the many things girls her age begin doing, all related to development. We recently discussed leg shaving. Some friends tell her she should, and she’s okay with the idea, but she’s not feeling an overwhelming desire to do so, either. She’s in between. It’s another thing I love, both because she is comfortable thinking for herself without feeling pressure from her peers, and because it means that (at least in this way) she’s not too eager to grow up. And she deserves to rest there for just a bit longer.
We started reading Charlotte’s Web last weekend. One evening the three of us sprawled on my bed, as I read aloud the early chapter in which Wilbur escapes from his pen. It’s not lost on me that I, too, am in between as their mom. They may not have to rely on me for every need or task, the way they once did, but I’m still their first go-to. They have friends and extracurricular activities and interests which are shaping their personalities, but they still want to be with me, doing the things we’ve always done.
I love that, and I want to hang onto it. Even when I know I can’t.
Because we’re only in between.