I’ve discovered that it’s at least partly because they put me in touch with myself.
Oldest daughter, the one I’m worried about, very nearly missed an opportunity to take a trip she really wanted to take. Some people had made great sacrifices to make this possible, and through her own folly, she almost missed it.
I got a phone call at 3:30 a.m., asking where she was (she was supposed to be catching a ride to the airport). When I went to bed last night, I thought she was going to be in a predictable place at that time. She wasn’t. If she didn’t arrive soon, her ride would have to depart to the airport, and she would miss the trip.
Her clothes for the trip were sitting on her bed, and her suitcase was sitting empty on the floor.
What to do?
If I were a “good” parent, I would go back to sleep and let her take the consequences of her folly. If I were a “good” parent, I would pack her suitcase for her and go out looking for her. If I were a “good” parent, this never would have happened to begin with. If I were a “good” parent, I wouldn’t be having these questions; I would just know what to do and do it.
Let her miss the opportunity? Suddenly, like an actor rehearsing for a role, I’m experiencing every possibility I’ve blown through my own folly. Like the traffic crash I caused in high school. Like the time my un-backed-up hard drive died, losing all my fiction in progress. Like the time I missed my plane and had to take a later flight, inconveniencing the people who were going to pick me up at the airport. In fact, all of those moments when I’ve realized that there was no command-Z undo available (how I wished for a command-Z, even back in the ’70s, when Apple hadn’t been invented, much less the Macintosh) come rushing back as one huge “Oh, sh*t,” that I project onto my daughter. I “know” how she’ll feel, because I know how I feel.
I’m angry at her for her folly, and for reminding me of mine.
Well, she scraped herself together. My 3:30 a.m. phone calls served only to wake up the parents of her friends and eventually to let me know she was scrambling for home. I did get to call the woman who is taking her to the airport to let her know that the girl would be there just in the nick of time.
I never had a chance to talk to my daughter. She slipped in, tumbled her clothes into the suitcase and slipped out, without ever knowing her near miss. Now she’s on a plane (I hope) on her way to her destination. What she’s left behind is not as important as what she took along.
Does she know how close she came? I hope so, and I hope not.
I’m like a rat in a cage, who doesn’t want to touch that electrified wire any more. I want her to touch the electrified wire so that she’ll learn from it, and because — if I’m honest — it’s not fair that I have to touch it and she doesn’t. I want there not to be an electrified wire, but I know that while this one was just a jolt, the next might be deadly.
After the phone call, I lay back on my pillow and felt my heart pounding as hard as if it had all happened to me, not just second hand, not just a near miss, but really happened. Really missed the plane. Really missed the trip I, as if I were she, so urgently wanted to take. Really blew the plane ticket and the kindness of these people. It was 4 a.m., and I had to get up in another two hours, and I had at least two hours of stress to lose before I could sleep.
I put some quiet music in my headphones and tuned in and dropped out.
Well, for three reasons. 1) This is my blog, and for whatever it’s worth or not worth, this is what’s spinning around my tiny little mind. 2) If anybody reading this has experienced something similar, maybe it will be a comfort not to be alone. 3) I’m going to write a book about this someday, and I want to store the memory on something more permanent than my hard disk.