Saturday, September 11, 2004

Being useful is calming. When you need to become the pillar of strenght, it just seems to happen naturally.

It has almost been a week since I came back home. Being away for three weeks was too long, and its effects were apparent. My wife, a tough cookie herself, was completely exhausted from trying to balance a heavy workload with taking care of our little girl. She just started a new rotation, which means that she is up at 5 am and out the door, and is seldom seen back home until after 7 pm. And she is also taking calls again. For example today, she was off to work at 7 am, and won't be back until noon tomorrow. Having probably gotten no sleep at all.

I can admit to having been a bit sleep-deprived myself when I came home last Sunday night, but it is interesting how you can suddenly gain extra strength just from seeing that your force is in demand. So I have spent the week waking up with my wife and seeing her off, getting a couple of hours worth of work done before my daughter wakes up, feeding/dressing/brushing her teeth and driving her to the daycare, paying bills, haggling with oil people/phone people/repair people, getting the cars maintained, studying, stocking the fridge/pantry, working some more, fetching my little girl and playing with her, buying flowers/wine/other distractions for my wife, making dinner, feeding and nourishing my wife, bathing my girls and putting them to bed, and maybe getting a little more work done.

And I've done it. Calmly and completely. Because I am wanted. And needed. By a couple of people that live in my heart. One of them moved there a decade ago. The other one just appeared there last summer. Yesterday, I was struggling with the question 'Can you miss something you've never actually had?' Today I realized that of course you can. If you realize that it is something you have wanted for longer than you have known. My little girl, for example. Being apart from her for a few days soon after she was born made me miss her like crazy. Even if we only just met. Missing her was also missing the opportunity to get to know her better. To verify what I felt she was like. Or maybe learning something completely different about her. This was the challenge of being away from her, these last few weeks. It is the loss of time. Seeing it disappearing without being there to spend it with her.

But now I am back. And I am making good things happen. My daughter greeted me as if I had been away for only a few minutes, and I hope she didn't feel this sting in her heart that comes from missing dearly. But I secretly also want to believe that she missed me, a bit. Just a little. Isn't that the essence of human relations? You do not just want to enjoy the company of other people. You also want to know that it is reciprocated. That there is balance. That you are not just feeding on others, but that they are getting good things in return from you.

This may be my single, greatest dread about my little girl growing up, besides her becoming a 'socially conservative' Repulican. It is that she will not derive the same pleasure from my company as I do from hers. Which actually is pretty likely, eventually, I guess, even inevitable. I even want her to outgrow me, and us, her parents. But I know it is going to break my heart when she starts trying to break free.

Oh, listen to me! How silly. Worrying about her moving out, when she has barely moved in. As I am writing this, she is sound asleep after a challenging night and morning. Late last night, she woke up and started crying. Something she practically never does during the night. When I checked on her, she was miserable. Eyes red and puffed, nasty cough, and what a runny nose! How can such a little thing produce so much snot?

She woke up a few more times in the night, and each time I put her right back to sleep. My wife took her with her downstairs for breakfast before she left, but the little critter hardly ate anything. She spent most of the morning whimpering pathetically in my arms, eating and drinking a little from time to time, finally collapsing into exhaustion on my shoulder. I know it is a terrible thing to say, but there is something so endearing about her when she is this feeble. Probably because that is when all she really wants is to be carried around and cuddled.

Which gives my a reason to be comforting. An excuse to be strong.