I was asked not too long ago, “when did you know that you wanted to be a Dad?” And when I answered “right after graduation,” it was not because I was looking to go out an populate the world right away. Rather, I had been so hurt by my father at that point, I wanted to prove to myself, that I would not make the choices that he did. I would be there for my children. I would be the father that I wanted, needed to have.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma took that opportunity away from me. However, through adoptions, I was given that chance back again. And regardless that my marriage ended in divorce, that did not mean that my role as a father would cease either. In fact, I faced a similar crossroad that my father faced, when it came to his children. But I chose the other path.
As I often state, I will not go into details of my divorce, but the one thing that has been constant in the eight years since? I made the choice to stay involved with my daughters. Certainly it has not been perfect, or ideal, but I have done all that I can to make it work. Hell, even a pandemic could not stop me.
So, having followed through on my self-promise, as a father, and managing the multitude of health issues from the late developing side effects from the treatments of my Hodgkin’s, I have arrived at an even bigger stage of life, my daughters having grown up, and becoming women of their own selves.
All parents go through it, their “babies” growing up. So this is not something unique upon me.
My emergency open heart surgery, was the first time that I had been separated from my daughters, ever! It was the longest week of my life, with the night before the surgery, the most difficult, because prior, I was just supposed to have a simple catheterization to correct the problem, so my goodbye to my daughters was nothing more than a “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” But that next afternoon, turned into a “life and death,” a very risky surgery, something that I might not survive. All I wanted was to hold my daughters one more time.
Obviously I survived, but divorce would soon lead to time apart via custody agreements. But with the help of technology, Facetime, texting, and other media, I was at least able to make daily contact with them. But for my daughters, with the exception of an overnight visit with a friend, they have never been apart from each other.
A friend of mine warned me a long time ago, of the time coming, as his daughters got older, they would ask for moments when he was scheduled to spend time with them, that one or even both, might have either plans, of course to a teenager, they would be important to them. That would result in his visit with perhaps only one of his daughters, or both, or even perhaps none. I could tell it was hard on him. I would dread that time coming, and resist it as best as I could.
I do not know what I did that was different from my friend, but I managed to spend every available moment with both my daughters. But with one daughter now eighteen, she is now able to express her own decisions, and yes, now I am at yet another crossroad, and this one is not up to me to decide. All I can do is hope that I had enough of an influence, that decisions that affect both of us, will keep our relationship in mind.
While the term “empty nest” does not really apply here, because that would imply no children at home any more. I have many friends who have already experienced their children having moved on and are now on their way through grandparenthood. But I do have a few friends that are or have just gone through this similar stage, one child of multiples having gained independence, the feelings of “loss” are still just as painful. I am not looking for sympathy, but I do know that there is empathy for me.
I have had one of the best Father’s Day visits with my daughters. But for one, the time was cut short, as she chose to travel home before her younger sister, staying with me a few extra days. As we dropped off my older daughter to return home, it did not take long to realize someone else was being affected by this, my daughters. As I mentioned, they have been together basically their entire lives. This day would be inevitable when they would go off to college, but it is happening now.
You could see what this meant to them, all day prior to the departure. While they have always gotten along with each other, there was definitely some last minute bonding happening. Back at the house, now with just one of my daughters, this was a new experience for both of us. It is only a short few days more before my younger daughter heads home, and back to her sister, so this short “test run,” will help us to adjust for the future. The summer visit will be a true test, as it is several weeks, my older daughter has arranged other things during her summer, and is likely at best, maybe to only visit a few days. It will definitely be the longest time the sisters have been apart from each other. I see this as an opportunity to help them to establish a line and need for communication for when the actual college departures come in to play. I will do all that I can to make sure that they talk to each other frequently.
It is going to be an adjustment for all of us for sure. My daughters know that I love them both equally. The only advantage one can even claim, is simply by age. When it came to gifts, decisions on activities, help with homework, and more, both daughters know they can count on me. I had time with only one daughter by herself, way back, waiting to adopt my second daughter. And now, with visits, it will be my younger daughter who will get focused attention.
I am sure all the while, we will be wishing my older daughter, my younger daughter’s sibling, would be with us.