Monday, May 11, 2015
Elder Daughter and her proud Daddy.
Everyone’s life is marked by milestones, the signposts along the Road of Earthly Existence that we use to mark significant events as we travel from the initial on-ramp to the Final Exit. Lifecycle events, some call them. Baptism or B’rit Milah. The first day of school. Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Confirmation. Quinceañero. The first date. Being graduated from high school and college. Getting married. Buying a car or a house for the first time. Getting a job.
When I look at the big milestones in my life, perhaps the one that stands out the most is Becoming a Father. When Elder (then Only) Daughter was born - an event that I both eagerly anticipated and dreaded at the same time - it marked a dramatic change in my circumstances. I was now responsible for another human being, a baby girl who stole my heart with her very first breath.
I can divide my life into two parts: Part I - Before Fatherhood and Part II - Fatherhood. Nine years ago, the two parts were of similar dimensions, but Part II has been gaining ground ever since. And, truly, it is almost as though they are two different lives.
Being a dad means having your emotions amplified. You feel love and joy more than ever before, and with that comes the fear of loss, a dread the starkness of which is unimaginable during Part I. The world is simultaneously more pleasurable and more fraught. In 1997, when Dee and I dropped Elder Daughter off in Boston to begin her university career, we watched our no-longer-quite-a-baby disappear into the maw of Boston’s T. It’s hard to describe the bittersweet import of that moment, the combination of elation and terror that we felt as our taxicab pulled away to take us to the airport.
Nevertheless, I’ll take Part II any old time.
The “two lives” analogy is especially apropos today, as it is Elder Daughter’s thirty-sixth birthday.
Because letters serve both as consonants and as numbers in the Hebrew alephbet (well, where did you think the word alphabet came from, anyway?) we Red Sea Pedestrians often assign numeric values to words, and vice-versa. The word חי (chai = life) is written with the letters chet and yad, corresponding to eight and ten, respectively: thus life = eighteen. Thirty-six, then, means two lives.
Elder Daughter can appreciate this analogy as well, for she has spent eighteen years as a dependent and eighteen years on her own. Call them First Life and Second Life, if you will.
She is quite a young woman, this Elder Daughter of ours, filled almost to overflowing with vitality, creativity, and intelligence. As Dee so beautifully puts it, she lights up a room with her smile and personality.
Happy birthday, Elder Daughter! Enjoy every moment. We love you!