I was recently asked at a workshop what my proudest achievement in life was. The young woman introducing me wanted something not scripted to say, I guess. My unhesitant response?
"My daughters," I said.
"Oh," she said.
I think she was expecting me to refer to something in the right hand column of this site, which would have been natural given the occasion, but no, not at my age and with my perspective.
Reams have been written about Daddies and Their Girls, along with poems without number, not all of them sappy. This is no attempt to correct or improve that body of work. It's a bit of prose about my girls. And I am not about to paint everything with a broad, rosy brush. There were difficult episodes as well as boring ones: how many diapers can you change and still think it's cute? How many baths can you preside over without a good book nearby? How many times can you read a bedtime story that both of you have heard a zillion times and not go a little bit postal? (I used to try to skip pages with Libby but she would look up at me, pull her thumb out her mouth with a thwack, and turn the page back. No fooling her. No cheating her, either. Meggie would often just smile and let me get away with it. Smart mini-woman). How many times can you cook Daddy Burgers and Fries or Mackeemonee Cheese and Hot Dogs without the three of you wanting to dump the whole thing? (That's when I started to learn how to cook. This was about 1983, after my wife bought me a wonderful book, The Husband's Cookbook. It has always disappointed me that my spaghetti sauce and pasta from scratch--Spaghetti Bolognese in Italian--pleased them far less than the canned stuff from the store. I perservered anyway and am glad now, living alone, that I did. They are, too. I still cook for them when I visit.)
But all the bad stuff aside, the thing of which I am most proud is that my girls still love me despite my obvious limitations and more-than-questionable recent decisions. We have a good time when we are together: easy with each other; no pressure to entertain; a real sense of history and family; accepting each other as we are. I have on a number of occasions lamented to them that wish I could have been paying more attention when they were young, been more in-the-now, gone on fewer retreats, tours, gigs. I have often said to them that my wife was two-thirds parent and one-third pro, while I was one-third parent and two-thirds pro, and that I felt bad about that.
Nonsense, they say. We had every entire summer in VW camping vans crawling up into the Sierra in third gear or traveling across the country, every Christmas vacation at home, two six-month sabbaticals abroad together (which Meggie credits to her wanderlust--resulting in a semester in Central America and Mexico, after which she arrived back home at LAX with cornrows, hairy legs and armpits, and Libby credits to her Fulbright year in Vienna, during which she met her husband and did things as yet unrevealed).
They attended great universities, have attained marketable skills, live their lives according to their own codes, are tough in the face of difficulties, delight in the moments of wonder, and are in all ways delightful, thoughtful people who judge no one--least of all their parents--and who are making their ways through life with as much joy as life may have to offer (the extent of which may be debatable, but that, too, is for later).
They are altogether wonderful people. I love them more than life itself (that may be a cliché, which I abhor, but there you are). This love gives them tremendous power over me, but I will have to concede that. Oh, and they are beautiful as well as smart and savvy.
If all I had in life were them alone, I would still be a lucky man.
Kissie, kissie, girls . . .