21 June 2008

Other People's Birthdays

Other people’s birthdays mark time better than my own seem to do. My oldest daughter finished her first nineteen years today, and I am feeling my age in a way I do not experience with the coming and goings of my own birthdays. Today, on her birthday, I feel old. Perhaps it is because as my children grow into their lives, they grow out of mine, and I think that in my obsessiveness with their lives, I neglected to build the life that I could inhabit when their lives moved away from my sphere of influence. Sometimes I feel like the skin left behind at the snake’s molting. Whereas for years my days and moments were filled with the children, now the children have their own days and moments to fill, and rightfully so, it must be done without me and outside of me. Hopefully, I am part of their lives, but I should not be present in it. I am become cliché: as my children need me less and less, I seem to have less to do. Over the years, I neglected to have a life for myself which I could cultivate sans the children: an adult life in which my fatherhood played only a supporting role, and my other capacities had the lead parts. Another image: I seem to lack now the knowledge I would need to play first violin after sitting for so many years in the second position. I would like to play melody in the orchestra, but I have not cultivated these skills lately. I thought I was too busy to do it; I thought I was not permitted to do so. I thought that the two roles were mutually exclusive.

And now I find that I have a great need to reinvent myself, and though my personal resources may be rich, I have to write a new script with new entrances and exits and all sorts of twists of plot.

Happy Birthday, dear daughter.


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