IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS.
We were supposed to be on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not in our Orange County living room. We were supposed to clap and cheer and laugh and cry as our daughter earned her International Affairs degree from The George Washington University — not stare at a YouTube stream of well-meaning commencement speakers, pretending with them that this is fine, this is fun, this will be a great story someday.
Someday, perhaps. But today a rite of passage passed with a whimper. Pomp canceled, due to circumstance.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, having her home for her last two months of college, watching her take classes online and turn in her final papers from the same room where she grew up.
But despite all we missed, despite all the memories that now lay forfeit, I’m not sure I would be so quick to change anything.
Because seeing her in that childhood space was more special than I ever could have imagined. Spending time together, all three of us, was the graduation gift I never expected or thought I needed.
I didn’t just get to see my daughter, the 21-year-old college graduate. I got to see my little girl again.
I had resigned myself to the reality that she might never come back home. Her life now belongs elsewhere, albeit in an uncertain future.
No, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Or was it?
The future is uncertain, but that’s what all futures are. That’s what they’re supposed to be. Futures don’t come with guarantees, pandemic or no pandemic.
What we miss isn’t certainty, it’s familiarity. We never knew what the future held, we just knew the patterns of the past. And we clung to them like talismans, thinking they would protect and guide us as we moved forward.
The familiarity is gone but the future is still out there, with all its formidable power and limitless potential.
I’m proud of the woman my daughter has become; I can’t wait to see what her future holds.
And while it wasn’t supposed…okay, while I never expected it to be like this, I’m also grateful I got to see the little kid who still loves Harry Potter movie marathons, who does puzzles with her mom and who likes to microwave her ice cream before she eats it. I will always be her dad, but I’m glad I got another chance to be the annoying older brother she never had.
I’m happy for her, scared for her, proud of her. I know she will give that uncertain future all she’s got.
Although I’ll be sad to see her go, I also know that she’s not really leaving. She will be away from home once more, but she won’t really be gone.
Because the truth is she never moved out four years ago.
She just moved on.