It’s difficult not to be a little nostalgic as I take the plane ride back to New York after a trip with my eldest daughter to Columbia, Missouri after "Summer Welcome." Two months or so from now, she’ll be a freshman my alma mater, the University of Missouri. It’s particularly meaningful for a guy like me who has been her only and full-time parent since she was seven years old.
The trip with my daughter was really nice. She is, obviously, the offspring of her mother and me, which means she’s been blessed with obstinacy from both contributors of her genetic material. Considering she has been and still is a teenager and I have been her primary sparring partner, it should come as no surprise that much of the past few years have been marked with disagreements, misunderstandings, and all variety of argument, quarrel, dispute, row, spat, squabble, barney, and even the occasional donnybrook. Frankly, it was supposed to have been her mother who caught the brunt and I was supposed to have been the knight in shining armor, but things don’t always work out the way we want them to. Alas. The young woman who I accompanied to Missouri was patient, pleasant, mature, and hopeful. I didn’t add responsible because she’s always been that.
I often joke when something works out well when I’m involved, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.” Seeing my daughter during the weekend, whether I’m blind or a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind and in spite of my parenting missteps and mistakes, my daughter has become an incredible young woman.
I like Missouri. I think at least part of her interest in becoming a Tiger is her interest in connecting with her extended family, particularly on her mother’s side. While I’ve considered moving several times during the past decade, it hasn’t yet worked out, but she’ll experience and live many of the things her mother and I did as young adults growing up in Missouri. She’ll experience Missourians’ genuine friendliness tempered by a discrete provinciality. No, she didn’t graduate from a St. Louis-area high school, but when she answers, “I went to Warwick Valley High School in Warwick, New York,” the interviewer won’t know how to catalog her. She’ll become used to all of the things to which I always have to re-acclimate, which include not only the heat and humidity, but also the suburban sprawl, the smoking in bars, use of mobile phones while driving, (which I hope she won’t do), the price of apples, the difference between a St. Louis Cardinals fan and a Kansas City Royals fan, and more.
She’ll connect with her mother’s brother’s family and her grown cousins who live 90 miles east of Columbia just a couple of miles from I-70. She’ll spend time with her mother’s sister’s family and her younger cousins who live in central Illinois. She’ll spend time with my parents, who live about 100 miles east of Columbia, just a stone’s throw from I-70 and who will be happy to spoil her. She’s actually already a little spoiled. She’ll hang out maybe with her mother’s and my good friend who is a cardiologist in Columbia and whose wife is an internist and their 6’ 7” eldest son who will play basketball this fall at Truman State. She’ll make her own friends, friends who will last a lifetime, maybe as a Greek and maybe not, as she studies Biology in preparation for a career in medicine or science. She’ll know, even though she’s far from home, she has a lot of people who love her and who have her back right where she is.
She’ll experience life, both the good and the bad. She’ll have success and failure, triumph and disappointment. She’s already experienced some of both and, in her case, some of the unpleasant realities of life that I wished I could have prevented a seven year old from seeing. If life balances, then she’s due for more good in the future. That’s heartening. As she does move through her life, though, she’s proven to be as resilient as she is intelligent and beautiful, so I she’ll do well.