So. My life, fifty-one years long (good Lord) and almost without exception one that has been a struggle to call my own, is decidedly even less so now. Admittedly, I really mucked up the period in which I was solely in control of things (age 18-22, the lost years) and fared little better during those in which I could claim at least marginal influence. Now, apparently, I have tacitly deferred to others who are better equipped to manage the everyday affairs of my existence. Instead of being a player – indeed, the most valuable one – I am merely the field on which the game is played. People are constantly running over me, back and forth, back and forth, with no discernible purpose (soccer, anyone?); occasionally others spread copious amounts of bull ish over me. It would seem I need ample fertilization in order to grow.
My business partner does all the scheduling for our company; I consider this a fair trade in return for maintaining the books and paying the bills. Believe me, I’m not complaining; I am no fan of the phone. People I see in public I can choose to ignore (assuming I see them first) or to engage (I know some pretty cool people, who please me to no end). Such is the nature of Tucson, a metropolis of almost one million people. Even though this city and its satellites encompass more turf than does San Francisco, I’m constantly running into people I know. (Because I’m almost always bigger, they usually regret it more than I…No, really; that’s the only reason.). Wait…what was I on about? Oh, yes; the phone. The phone is a massive intrusion upon my well-being; when people call you, they invariably want something. Rarely it is someone who merely wishes only the best for me and is inquiring to see if things are so. More often it is a customer who wants to throw money at me, but inexplicably commands my time and effort in return. My partner agrees that these people ask too much of me, as is evidenced by the amount of work we seem to lose when they do, and so he gracefully accepts the burden. I am simply to show up at the appointed date and time and perform to standards that have been tempered in advance.
My youngest daughter (see Maddie, 5/11) is graduating high school tomorrow night. Like my other two children, she has blossomed into an exceptional young adult; attractive (thank God for recessive genes), intelligent (ditto), and mature. (Dang it!). My wife, just as she did with the other two children, pulled off another masterful job of mothering. Where was I, and where did the time go? As I bounced off the bumpers inside the pinball game of life, coaxed (as I sought to retreat) to repeatedly reenter the fray by others manning the flippers, my littlest somehow grew up, seemingly overnight. I swear I was paying attention, but it went by so fast I feel like I missed too much of it. What I’d give to start all over and chronicle each second of her childhood, but I doubt she’d play along. She stands at the doorway to a whole new world, filled with excitement and infinite possibility; I can do nothing to affect the turns and twists she’ll face, other than to offer counsel should she seek it. I am mindful that the life involved is so much more dear to me than is my own, and so the advice I offer must be so much better than that I gave myself thirty years ago.
My oldest child, now twenty-three, is marrying in less than a month. How did this happen? Despite my best efforts to pour boiling oil on every suitor who dared cross the drawbridge and stand at my gate, one somehow sneaked past. How? By being a friend to my son first, and then to my family; the classic end-around, and I never saw it coming. Clever, indeed, and the king became powerless to stop the assault from within. My wife is taking care of all the wedding arrangements while my daughter finishes her internship in Colorado. My influence is confined to futile bellows of negativity at each financial consideration and occasional thoughtful queries that remind my wife how much she has to do in so little time and how little she has to do it with.
Thank God it is so. It’s a very stressful time right now, but one thing I’ve learned in fifty-one years is that things that are planned will happen and things that aren’t will, too. Another thing that time has taught me is that the less direct involvement I have, the better things usually turn out for me. My business will be fine, if I work hard at what I do well and limit that which I don’t. My daughter’s life is not mine, but she is my daughter, and now that she’ll make the brunt of the decisions in her life, I’m confident she’ll continue to flourish, and I still get to watch. Similarly, I’m not getting married, but my oldest daughter is, and because her mom is doing most of the work, this wedding will be amazing. And because her fiance is a good man, and because God appears solidly in the works, I know the marriage will be as well. Regardless, though, the oil is always on the fire…