Now maybe there are some fathers who are blasé about this. Maybe there are some dads who wave a cheerful goodbye, spin on their heel, go back inside the house, pour themselves a cup of coffee and get on with their day without missing a beat.
But not me: the sight of my daughter, the last of our three kids, driving off, hit me. Hit me real hard, and by surprise.
So right now, I'm sitting here bawling.
I'm not talking brushing away a gentle tear: I'm talking one of those full snot, chest-heaving, primal yalp sob-a-thons.
So I thought I'd write about it.
"Keep the drama on the page" Julia Cameron advises writers. Which means that instead of stewing in your own dramatic juices and getting exhausted, write about it. Get it down, process it. Tame it through typing. Or as Ernest Hemingway said, "There's nothing to writing: all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
You know, this whole "last child driving away" episode would've been tough enough on the old man had I just watched from the window. But no, I'd decided I wanted to capture the moment on my iPhone. Which of course triggered the "stop...staaaaaaaaaap, put that away, that is soooo awkward" response. Which made it feel like I was making too big a deal of it. Which made me try to minimize it in my mind and try to convince myself that it was No Big Deal.
So I shut down the camera-phone and said to myself, "Shrug it off, John, c'mon, play it cool. Concentrate on your day. You have a big, busy day ahead. Concentrate on that."
That strategy -- let's call it the "suppress your true emotions" strategy -- worked. Worked real well. For about...oh I'd say ten seconds.
And then -- at the exact same moment I gave up trying to play it cool -- the tornado of emotions of my little girl pretty much Officially Becoming an Adult and Having Her Own Life Independent of Mom and Dad hit me.
For -- aside from Bar- and Bat-Mitzvah's and perhaps confirmation services in some churches -- what other what other rite or ritual in American society marks this event more than getting one's driver's license?
So she drove off. Leaving me standing in the house, alone. Watching her, again, go down the street.
I know, I know: I KNOW: this is a good day. I should be happy. I should feel fortunate she's alive, she's well, she's healthy. What a milestone!
I'll get there. Promise I will: don't worry about me. I'll be fine.
But in the meantime -- right now -- I'm dealing with letting go. Releasing. Feeling a little tiny death that okay, is not really a death, and okay, even if it is a death, it's only a symbolic one and it's one that brings new life (run those errands, Elizabeth; drive yourself, girl; we're practicing for Empty Nesting!).
But still...right now, in this exact moment...it hurts.
Change is good, but it hurts. Transitions are good, but they hurt. Letting go is healthy and good, but at the same time it makes you feel like you've swallowed a live cat. And that (I assume, anyway) really hurts.
Until you let it out.
Drive safely, little girl. I love you.