Three girls, three schools.
Three cities, technically. And all three play soccer in three different towns, too, sprawled from the Appalachian Mountains to the Carolinas Piedmont. I’m in halfway through it all, one daughter engaged, another a budding star in high school and club soccer.
The third – who knows what limits she’ll push, in a greenhouse or on stage or with a ball at her feet.
It gives the illusion of my importance in being halfway there. I’m not lifting my youngest to my shoulders for a ride, but not yet ready to give away my oldest to her future groom. Take your time, I urged them the day they showed us the ring. Take your time.
I don’t want to slow the whole process, to hang onto those moments the girls are under my wing, under my thumb, still looking to me as the strongest man in the world.
They’ve figured out I am not. Yet if they see me still fighting, fighting like that bluebird I saw chasing crows from his nest, they’ll believe the race isn’t always to the strongest. Or fastest. Maybe they’re not thinking of it at all, between matches and training and life.
Seizing the chance to live
If they’re not, that’s fine with me.
It’s a good life, this. My friend sat next to me at a breakfast table, spoon swirling in a cup of grits, words drenched with agony over events taking place in Syria right now. Why would you start a family there? not looking for an answer but I gave one anyway.
For the chance, I was saying, to live.
Amid the fight or flight mechanisms that govern us, there’s a pull to pass on lineage. You forget that kids in poor households have longer odds for college. You do your best to provide a role model. Sometimes it’s what you do after you fail at that that teaches most.
And you find yourself halfway through it all, and what a glorious place to be.
You beat some odds, ignore others. Global concerns and civic strife and your very own health and perceived limitations just lift off into the ether and out into space. You’re on a sideline or a highway or rushing to see your daughter act, a gaudy bouquet in your hand.
Being halfway there feels good, despite how far it feels from your college girl.
Always room to improve
Life will likely take her even further. You wonder, with her closer to the end of the assembly line of fatherly influence whether you are well equipped at all to help construct her.
You are, though, but should always strive for better.
See where she is? It’s not status or anything quantifiable. It’s in the words she quotes, the belonging she’s found and the proximity you feel to her when she sees a video of the cheesiest pizza in the history of man and she shares it with you.
And it’s sitting here now, writing and waiting for morning when another child will play in a college showcase. It’s not about the potential prize but about this leg of the journey, of watching her trajectory still sky-bound and unknown.
And it’s in that youngest child, now tall as the others. It’s watching her try to learn to make a family tree for a gift for relatives she just met this weekend. It’s picking up Wake Forest gear every time you’re in Winston-Salem because that’s her dream school.
It’s seeing their mother’s beauty and resolve in them each, and wondering when and how their promising paths contain anything I could offer beyond a steady ride everywhere and soft blankets to wrap in and food on their plates.
Then I see them goof off, wrestling and Facetiming their big sister, alive with the gift of annoyance and a buoyancy from me I can see clearly in them. It’s there, with them, that spirit to make a ruckus and forget the odds, even when they’re in their favor.
And I find myself halfway through it, and ready for more.