By John Krull
DAVIDSON, North Carolina – Every step is a blur.
My wife and I are moving our daughter, our first-born, into her college dormitory. The women in my life focus on unpacking and transforming this single room in an old building into a small home, while I devote my attention to tasks that have less to do with taste and more to do with brute force.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
With the help of three burly football players, I’m “lofting” the beds – raising the springs and mattresses on the frame – for my girl and her roommate so they can use the space below for storage.
The work is a welcome distraction, a way to deal with the feelings roiling within me.
I watch my daughter talk with her roommate, with the other incoming students and with the faculty and staff members helping with the move-in. She is everything I would wish her to be – friendly, considerate, self-assured, comfortable with herself and her decisions.
I marvel at what a poised and capable young woman she has become.
At the same time, like an echo across a vast canyon, the parent’s traditional lament bounces in my brain.
Where did the time go? How did she grow up so fast?
I wasn’t sure I’d ever be a father – or even that I wanted to be one. I was a long time finding my life partner. I was well into my 30s when my wife and I married and just shy of 40 when my daughter was born.
She owned me from the moment she came into the world. I remember holding her in the delivery room, tears streaming down my face and realizing that sometimes we cannot know how fiercely we want something until we have it.
I had not known how desperately I wanted to be a father until my daughter was born.
My friends teased me when she was a baby. They said she’d never learn to walk if I didn’t stop holding her. They’d ask to see her little finger.
“You know – the one you’ve got your father wrapped around.”
She grew to be our bookish child. My wife and I both read to her a lot, turning the brightly colored pages of all the Seuss books and cooing the rhymes, until she learned to read for herself.
Then she never stopped. She romped through books – two, three, four, five or six a week.
When we took father-daughter trips, we haunted bookstores together and found little outdoor cafes where we could read and people-watch. She developed an intense curiosity. She burned to understand.
Once, when we were having a talk about something, she looked at me a little nervously and said, “Dad, I don’t think I agree with you.”
I smiled at her.
“That’s okay,” I told her. “You’re my daughter, not my clone. I want you to think for yourself.”
We have been quarreling – happily, gently, lovingly – ever since.
Because parenting can be all-encompassing, it can be easy to lose track of the seasons and the stages. We think every moment will last, but the moments flee like frightened rabbits.
My daughter talks with her roommate about which closet will belong to whom as my wife looks on. My daughter now is taller than her mother.
I look at my child and wonder where the baby girl who used to nap on my chest has gone, where the toddler who loved to toss pebbles into still water just to see the surface ripple went, where the pony-tailed girl who played defense in church basketball with the ferocity of a terrier vanished.
The moments, they fled.
The football players and I take turns pounding the bed rails into the posts, then testing them to make sure they’re secure. It occurs to me, as we hoist the mattress into place, that this is the first of a series of homes my daughter will build for herself, away from her parents.
This is what we want for her, of course. But that doesn’t make letting go much easier.
We head to dinner.
Soon, I think, my wife and I will have to start the drive back home, leaving our first-born to start her adventure.
My girl, hundreds of miles from home.
At the thought my eyes grow moist.
Every step is a blur.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.