February 12, 2004
He awoke at seven that morning, knowing that the day would bring him more happiness than grief, and yet he still felt a cold ball of dread in his stomach, sitting there like lead, weighing him down. He knew that swinging his body around and allowing his feet to touch the floor would commit him to getting out of bed, and that standing up and getting dressed would commit him to leaving his bedroom, and that appearing in the house would commit him to staying for her party.
His daughter was now old enough to drive. She could ask for the keys at any moment, and he would have no choice but to hand them over or be branded an uncool Dad. Perhaps he could throw them out the window? But then that would make it tough for him to use the car himself. Maybe he could drop them in the toilet. That would keep any self-respecting teenager at a distance. Hell, that would drive away most adults.
But he was merely avoiding the inevitable. She was growing up. Soon she would be old enough to leave for college, to get a full-time job, to marry and have kids of her own, to follow that career or that husband to some city on the other side of the country. He might be able to see her once a year, if she could get away. They might talk a couple of times a week.
He wondered if she would understand this, that he was not afraid of her driving the car or how much taller than him she might eventually become. He was afraid of the first time that car turned a corner and left him behind, waving, wondering if she were even looking back, the first of many journeys that he would not even be able to watch.