Today, my favorite Buckeye turns 18. Normally, this is when parents update their Facebook status with an overly-sugary, sappy display of ridiculously exaggerated love for their child: “Happy Birthday to the bestest child who has ever walked the face of the earth. I can barely imagine how the world survived prior to you being born. Everyone should thank G-d, on this day, for bringing you into their lives.” Not me, however, for at least three main reasons:
1) I have three daughters. I couldn’t possibly exalt one to the detriment of the other two. I may not be the smartest father alive, but neither am I the dumbest;
2) I have never been known as an overly-effusive type, so it just wouldn’t be me; and
3) She would be completely humiliated and insist that I remove the post.
No, I will not be doing any such Facebook post. Instead, I will humiliate her (no doubt) by devoting an entire blog post to her 18th birthday. First, however, a little narcissism. I will be 47 at the end of this year. That makes me feel a little old. I have been married for 23 years now. That makes me feel a little old. I have a child in college. That makes me feel a little old. But my daughter turning 18? Being able to vote? That makes me feel really, really old.
Late in the evening of September 26, 1994, my pregnant (and overdue) wife and I were home. It was a rainy night, and I was preparing for a trial the next day while watching Monday Night Football. It was the Broncos against the Bills, and they were wearing very-retro throwback jerseys. My wife announced to me that she had gone into labor, and that it was time to go to the hospital. It was a very inconvenient time for me – preparing for trial, Monday Night Football, throwback jerseys! – but if I had learned anything in Lamaze class, it was that when it was time, it was time. I drove her to the hospital in the rain, over the pothole-filled roads that took us from home to Chilton Hospital. Judging by her cries of pain, she felt every bump and pothole in the road. Ah, motherhood.
I did get to watch the rest of the game at the hospital, which was good, because it was a long night (early morning). Sara was born at 4:12 that morning. We had been convinced that she was going to be a boy, so we were quite surprised when we were proven wrong. Nevertheless, she was brought home a couple of days later in a proper unisex outfit – a New York Yankees stretchy – the same outfit that was later worn by her two sisters when they went home for the first time. She was a small baby, weighing in at six pounds, four ounces – or, as we told her, 100 ounces, which made her perfectly sized.
She was the first grandchild for each of our families, and for the next three years (until the births of my niece and nephew) ruled as the only grandchild. She was spoiled as such, and later relished the role of big sister when each of our other daughters was born. She grew (eventually) into a lovely teenager, and, at least for the last couple of years, actually spent some time with us on a daily basis and was alternately moody (of course) and charmingly communicative (sometimes too much so). She became well-versed in a multitude of topics, embraced the music and teachings of John Lennon, became fluent in Spanish, got excellent grades, and gained admission into The Ohio State University.
I mentioned the New York Yankee outfit above. Importantly, Sara’s birth proved to be a turning point in Yankee history. She was born at the end of a Yankee era of non-competition, the longest stretch during which the boys in the Bronx failed to make the playoffs. She was born, and then things changed – the Yankees began to win again, reaching the post-season in all but two years since her birth. They have also won a handful (read: five) of World Series rings during that time. They don’t know it, but she has had as much to do with the Yankees’ resurgence and return to glory as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and the rest of the players.
Flash forward to the present. We dropped her off in Ohio last month, and she has been enjoying her new surroundings ever since. I have been trying to give her some space; most of our communications have been by text, and most of them have been during Ohio State football games. Without breaching any confidences between us, I would like to share some of the lovely texts that she has sent to me:
“At the show be jelly” (translation: “At the football stadium, be jealous”)
“42 TO 10”
“WTF GIANTS” (this was when the Giants lost to Dallas opening night)
“TOUCHDOWN” (back to Ohio State)
“Damnit it’s 10-10 now”
“TOUCHDOWN HELLZ YEAH”
“You’re going to be so proud I taught everyone about the George Glass reference in Bridesmaids” (A little off-topic, but funny)
“This is bullshit” (The OSU-Cal game)
“WHAT IS THIS”
“I want to punch somebody”
“TOUCHDOWN HELL YEAH”
Heartwarming, no? I have a tear in my eye just reading them again. Just the kind of tender words you would expect from a father and his oldest daughter.
It has been an interesting month without her. I know that she made the right choice for school, so I try not to let the fact that she is nine hours away bother me. We are planning on going there soon to see her, and she will be back home again for Thanksgiving (before flying home to catch the OSU-Michigan game – that’s my girl!). The house is strangely quiet sometimes without her, even though her two sisters and four-legged brother make enough noise for a small army. There have been times when I expect her to walk in the door, only to realize that it is not going to happen. But I haven’t really missed her yet.
Until today. Last night, my wife mentioned that this is going to be Sara’s first birthday without us. Now, I am missing her. It will pass, I know, and I will get more used to it. But today is going to be strange. I will call her, wish her Happy Birthday, she will laugh and say thank you, and then I will inevitably mess up the conversation by asking her something stupid, like “how is school?” or “are you ready for your music test?” We will have a five-minute or so (maybe) conversation, certainly much less than if she were still living here. Or worse, she will read this and call me to berate me for writing about her (or thank me, I don’t know which way it will go).
I just hope that while she may miss being home, that she is having enough fun today, with her new friends, that it will be her best birthday ever. She deserves it. She is a really good kid, and I am proud of who she has become. So maybe I can be a little effusive about her.
Apparently, I lied in my opening paragraph – “Happy Birthday to the best (one of the three) daughter a father could have. You make me proud every day to be your dad. I hope that you have a great day today, and can’t wait to see you. We all love and miss you.”
Damnit, now I am making myself cry.