I'm an empty-nester as I write this. My last child left home this past weekend and, like her older siblings before her, she will never return to live with me though I may see her from time to time. The move came suddenly, unexpectedly, as her 18th year in my house approached. One day I was making plans to buy her a new Pimento-colored dress, and just a few days later I was helping her pack her possessions into boxes for the move.
It has been just her and I the last six years but we've had fun and I'm happy to say that the last thing we did together was take a week last fall and wander the beautiful back-roads of Michigan, visit some great friends and hang out at the beach. We raced up and down narrow, twisting Wilco Road near Empire, Michigan, played in the rain, and mischievously broke into Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore while it was closed for the budget sequester. Only weeks before that we competed together in a driving event and placed 2nd out of more than 20 other couples. In years past we had also run some races and, despite our lack of training and mediocre equipment, we did very well against much better equipped couples, finishing first, as a matter of fact, in our very first gymkhana.
She makes friends easily and is readily approachable. She introduced me to a young woman named Anya that she met in Empire, Michigan. Both of them were born overseas and moved to America, and America is lucky to have them. They have remained friends.
But it has been a lonely few years for her, I think, with her brother and sisters gone. She’s gotten out less. Gone are the days of having two of her siblings doubled-buckled in her passenger seat. No more accelerating away from home--her, me, and one of her sisters--with me asking, "Did mom say, 'Have fun', or 'Be careful'?" No more taking the long way home from school, theater rehearsal, soccer practice, or grandma's house. No more runs to Leon's, Ardy and Ed's, or the South Main Street Dairy Queen for ice cream. The last few years were just she and I and our outings tended to be more thoughtful than playful.
Two years ago she was excited when her oldest sister, Erica, invited her along for a Father's Day drive. It came with the request that she sing 80's songs while we drove because, as Erica said, "It just isn't her unless she's singing 80s songs." They both have beautiful singing voices. That's a proud father's opinion, of course, but my other kids would agree as well. They have all commented on her voice (she sounds great belting out a tune under an overpass), as well as her scent. She's leaves an impression, and always a good one.
She helped me teach Nathaniel and Alex how to drive a "stick." They tore up and down a taxiway at the airport where it was safe for them to learn and where there was plenty of space for them to enjoy their sister's athleticism. I took movies. What father wouldn't? And not too long after that Nathaniel invited her out with his girlfriend, Jenn, for an afternoon of play. It was a cool thing for me to stand in my driveway and watch the three of them romp down the road to spend a crisp, fall afternoon together.
My grandson took to her when he was only 2 years old. Top down, he rode along in his car seat snapping countless photos of her wood dashboard while squinting into the sun. He explored her every switch and lever when we got home. He may have been too young at the time for that to be a forever memory, but I know she imprinted on him.
As I helped her pack for the move I found her adoption papers, gathered together photos of her from our 18 years together, and collected the news clippings and awards from the races we'd run. Those I will keep. Those are my possessions from our time together.
There's so much more I could say about her but it would just be the boring talk of a bragging father and I'll spare you that. I'm sure I'll recount stories in the future, like the time she and I....sorry.
Her room will remain empty only briefly, however, as I have adopted again. I will bring "Hobbes" home in only a few days. Hobbes never had children to play with so it will be a great fit--two bachelors out looking for fun together. Hobbes is all boy, a hard-headed one at that, so this will be an interesting change. I can't wait to see what adventures unfold for he and I. I can't even speculate on what they may be. Besides, the best adventures cannot be planned, they just happen.
Anyway, this past Saturday I moved her to her new house. She has new sisters and a brother that are still young and will grow up with her. They are excited about their new sister and I'm told they played together all weekend. That's what she needs again; young brothers and sisters. There will again be a soccer ball in her foot well, a trumpet in her trunk, and ice cream spilled on her seat as the "long way" is taken back home.
I was only her caretaker for the last 18 years. I hope I did right by her. She never let me down. I hope she can say the same about me. To her I say, "Have fun. Be careful."