43. Fatherly

Today is a different experience for me. I am typing on my daughter Grace’s laptop in her condo in Atlanta, facing the lush green courtyard of her complex, fountain gurgling below. It’s my first and only visit as she will be moving in a couple of weeks to Tucson, AZ to be with hubby Stu. They are a doozy of a couple who juggle more in a year than I have done in decades. We are going to a Braves game in a couple of hours with complimentary tickets from the law firm where she is interning this summer. Had breakfast at The Silver Skillet, an Altanta favorite apparently. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Even the weather has been solicitous of our approval. My only complaint is this laptop. It jumps all over creation if I breathe wrong. Makes me long for my dinosaur desktop. However, I must endure and endure I shall. I have a mission statement to construct here.

This weekend has been a special Father’s Day experience,especially since Grace is pregnant with the first grandchild, so there is that wonderful potential of the next generation and all the cool things that my friends tell me about being a grandparent. But I have two other wonderful daughters, both of whom called to chat and wish me the best. I am so blessed. I would not change a thing. So don’t go there with the favorite child thing.

Now Erin, my eldest, lives in Brooklyn. She could not make it home due to work obligations. Grace, the middle child, could not make it up, due to lots of stuff to do with selling this condo. And Jess, the baby, lives at home. So when Grace offered me a weekend in Atlanta, I jumped at the chance to drop my routine and go urban. Good choice! It’s as if the universe conspired to make a perfect weekend. Actually it was Grace and my lovely wife who put noggins together to make everything as smooth as calfskin soaked in Greek yogurt. All I had to do was fall forward and away I went. I am good at falling.

I don’t recall feeling so special on Father’s Day before. Perhaps because I have not been alone with one of my daughters for such an extended time. Maybe because it’s so clearly delineated with just the two of us. Maybe it’s because we are in the South and life is calmer and slower and drawled out. “Bless your heart, BabySugarHoneySweety!” I don’t know what it is, but I like it almost as much as the Belgian waffle and cheese grits I had for breakfast. When I ordered a side of cheese grits, even though it was not on the menu, not a moment of awkwardness passed between me and Carol our waitress. There was only a silent knowing that passed between us. Oh the South!

When my girls were little, I called them the apple, the peach, and the pineapple. Jess was the apple, crisp and shiny and delicious. “The apple of your eye?” I was asked once by a friend. “No, just the apple…Because Grace was the peach.”

“Why the peach?” “Because she was so sweet and thin skinned and easily bruised.”

“Okay, and the pineapple daughter?” “Yes, Erin. Prickly and defensive on the outside and a lot of work to get to know her, but what a reward awaits the patient pineapple connoisseur. She is richly delicious and exotic and rare. Got that? I love apples and peaches and pineapples with all their benefits and all their drawbacks. Even all tossed together in a fruit salad.”

“And the mother of the fruits? What would she happen to be?”

“Ahh, Mother Mango. Like the apple, she is pretty. Like a peach easily bruised because of her tenderness. And like the pineapple, a lot of work for a deliciously exotic experience.”

Let me sing some praises here. Jess has the voice and the heart of an angel. Little kids and the elderly seem to see her wings and instantly trust her. She knows God on a first name basis, and I kid just a little that she has a hotline to heaven. I love her to pieces and know that in heaven everyone will want to sit at her lunch table, if there are any in heaven…and then what would be served? Ambrosia, key lime pie, champagne? Maybe a chocolate fountain with finger foods for dippin’. Maybe cheese grits.

And Grace, well her name is misleading. She inherited her mother’s exploding ketchup bottle gene for mishaps and booboos. One morning she turned to kiss her husband goodbye while almost balancing a bowl of cereal in her hand. Of course she poured the milk/cereal mixture onto his clean shirt and tie. Fortunately Stu has inherited sturdy engineer quality patience genes from his mom’s side. Grace is a doer, an organizer, a feeler of the first order and a people pleaser. She looks like me but acts like her mother. She needs your prayers, Bloggeesems.

Erin looks like her mom but acts like me, but don’t tell her that. She is not a people pleaser, which is good when you are in her field, art. She sings, dances, does computer graphic design and knows a lot about a lot. She is introverted and hard to get to know, thus the pineapple comparison. She is a beauty like her mom and looks great in vintage clothes that she fashionizes. There is still a little girl in her who will be a great mom one day, I hope, who will love her child ferociously. Living in New York as a single woman is great preparation for going into a tiger cage with nothing but a purse. She can do it.

I have one other daughter who died at birth in 1984. Her name was/is Lisa Ellen. The crater of her death was filled in by lots of kids over the past 28 years, friends of my daughters, students, exchange students. Our dining table seats six, which always left one empty seat. You can stare at an empty chair all your life or you can fill it with somebody. We chose the latter. Surely she sits at Jess’s lunch table already, waiting for her earthly family to join her.

[Later] [I don’t think I’ve ever felt so fatherly in my life. It’s ironic that this joy sat down upon me in Turner Field while the Orioles defeated the Braves with my daughter next to me. Men and their kids were everywhere and I was one of the blessed. “I’m so glad you came, Daddi-O!”  “Me too.”



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