If I look like I’m happily high these days, it’s because the wonderful women who are my daughters will both be home with us for Christmas. I’m thrilled with these and other signs that my house and heart are full again of the women I love most, including:
• Their words to me have much more meaning when I can see the story their faces tell as they speak. When they tell me over the phone that everything is fine, I can’t be sure if that’s the case. Are they just trying to keep me from worrying? When the faces I have worked at reading for more than 20 years are visible while the voices tell me they are fine, then I know whether to worry or relax.
• No spider is safe in my home. All must be banished to the basement or squashed, preferably both. It’s a job I used to be called on to do as the man of the house, and did with chest-puffing pride, but my daughters are women now who can run their own lives and pick spiders off the kitchen ceiling. With any luck, a rat will stroll through the place and I can still prove my manly worth.
• The “Oh that’s so gross!” radar is operational. That means behaviors I could get away with when there were one or two women home now may draw a three-member feminine feeding frenzy of concerted disdain. Example: I pull a dirty pan out of the sink and use it to cook without washing it. According to the Rules for What Guys Would Do If They Lived Alone (in Caves) — aka RWGWDITLA — #16, that is acceptable as long as what you are planning to cook is the same thing stuck to the sides of the pan from when you cooked it yesterday, such as yesterday’s spaghetti pan. The pack reacts as though I am bringing roadkill home for supper.
• I can see my two daughters interact and see a warmth and interest in each other that one sees between the best of friends, which they are. Watching them reminds me of what a tremendous gift it is to parents to have adult children who like spending time together and really like each other. When I leave them behind for good one day, that thought will comfort me more than almost any other.
• I have learned to record TV shows by DVR (Dad’s Video Recording). That way, if I am watching football and need to throttle the gratuitous questions from the women’s cheap-seat section of the couch about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s love life and what cheerleaders add to NFL games, all I have to do is keep rewinding the game until appropriate football reverence is restored.
• My vocabulary is being expanded, so I now know that when the ladies are sitting on the kitchen floor talking about buying new pumps, they are not talking about something to suck rainwater out of the basement.
In the end, however, what’s really different and important for me when my family is all together again is that for a few days time with my children seems to slow down and slip away less quickly. The more I savor that time, the longer it seems to last. I have come late to the understanding that every minute I have with them all together comes from a bottle that’s now half empty and cannot be refilled.
Every run with my older daughter seems like the best run ever. Every conversation I enjoy with the younger one seems better than the last. Peals of laughter from my wife and daughters absorbed in each other’s happy company climb two flights of stairs from the kitchen below and make me pause to savor the sound of better music than Beethoven ever wrote. Learning of their developing views of the world and developing skills managing their work and their relationships seems ever more important because those skills give me confidence in their ability to manage lives beyond my reach.
So for every Christmas, Santa, can’t I have just a little more of this time?
Erik Steele, a physician in Bangor, is chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.