It's another birthday in the life of someone I know, someone I deeply
admire and respect, someone I learn from, someone who allows me to
contribute, someone who speaks
and openly with me sharing her ideas and even advising me in areas like
health, fitness, relationships, travel, and diet, someone who listens
openly and attentively to me, someone who never blindly accepts what I
say as "the truth" just because I say it, but rather takes
what works as her own and politely declines the rest, someone who
openly shares the deepest intimate personal details of her life with me
unflinching honesty, someone who shares my love for and tastes in
music, someone I can sing with, someone I enjoy being
around, someone I love.
I suppose it would be typical, at a time like this, to aver I love her
"more than life itself". But I've realized that's not really
true for me about her - because for me, she is life
It's an auspicious occasion, one which I'm reluctant to render overly
significant. And yet I can't help simply being in awe of the
significance of the day either. I'm a guest in her home for the first
time. That's what's auspicious about this occasion. The father is the
home for the first time. I'm here for four days celebrating her
birthday. I'm the only human being on
who's been with her on every single one of her nineteen birthdays so
far, including the day she was born. And I'm here with her today, her
nineteenth birthday, a guest in
home for the first time. Yes it's auspicious. A milestone in fact.
For her entire life until now, she's lived in my home, the
home I worked hard and long, long hours to afford and build for her. It
seems like it was only yesterday I delivered her and cut her umbilical
my daughter Alexandra
whose name means "the healer and defender of mankind". She was born
with her eyes open, her face clear. Looking me, the first human being
she laid eyes on on
directly in the eyes, her demeanor said "OK, we're here - let's get on
with it". I took her home and showed her around her new home, carrying
her in my arms to each corner of our property, describing every square
inch to her. She seemed to approve the home I'd made for her.
From that day until she
left to go to college,
she lived in my home. Then she moved into a dormitory, a
dorm on the campus for a year, still under the watchful
eye of adult supervision. But in this her second year she took an
apartment a stone's throw from the beautiful Goleta Beach, a stunningly
naturally rich environment as perfect for her as the frame surrounding
is for the enigmatic, transformative
it subtly emphasizes, not distracting from its magnificence yet
showcasing its brilliance.
She's diligent. Unsupervised, she's a straight "A"
student. She's excited about her life, always and eagerly looking
then setting in place whatever she needs to set in place to
maximize her own future. In this way, she's quite remarkable. In
many ways, actually, she's remarkable. But in this
particular way she's nothing short of amazing.
I'm clear I've had my time to teach her (to suggest to
her, actually) how to take care of herself. We've discussed those
choices which are now in her power to make she may later
regret, and even though I've been concerned about the availability of
all kinds of temptations on her college campus when I'll no longer be
around to watch over her and protect her, it's with a sense of pride
rather than loss that I step out of her way and allow her to take the
reins of her own life. I trust who she's being. I trust who
she says she is. This is exactly where our relationship has
shifted, where it's become sublime: between us is nothing
but adult trust, friendship, and respect. The
/ father relationship, while it will always be there as a
bedrock foundation, has given way ie has passed the baton
to a star / fan relationship.
Don't misunderstand what I'm saying here. It works both ways. I'm the
fan to her star, and she's the fan to my star. The former is my love,
admiration, and respect for her. The latter is her gift to me, her
priceless never taken for granted gift to me.
There were times many years ago when I found myself working long, long
hours, steadily building the education fund I set up for her which
would one day pay for this college education. On occasion, I had to
leave her for a week at a time on
only to return for the weekend, then leave her again for another week.
I didn't really get it then. It was ironically counter productive at
the time: in order to secure her future, it seemed I had to relinquish
being with her in the present. The
of it often weighed heavily on me during yet another cross country
flight on American Airlines without her, during yet another
night at the
Inn without her.
Now, fast forward to the future. Here we are, strolling
along Goleta Beach together, the second year of her college already
well under way. And it's so complete for me. All those long hours of
work, all the securing her future by relinquishing her present which
seemed so ironically counter productive back then, is now a source of
deep satisfaction and joy. It's not just that she's in a great college.
It's that she's in this college, which is basically on
this beach. The gorgeousness of this environment is only
matched by my Girly Girl's gorgeousness. This place is
for her. It's to her credit she's created herself to be a diligent,
undistracted, straight "A" student. Heck, if it were me,
I'd probably squander my grades here
as often as possible, taking the time for classes reluctantly only when
there was no swell or when the wind blew onshore.
Many adults have a hard time grokking (as Robert Heinlein
may have said) Werner Erhard's seminal assertion "People come from
nothing.". You can say that with the emphasis anywhere you like: on
the conceptual, on the intellectual, on the actual. It's
authentic on any level. It's the come from Werner refers
to when he says "You don't have to go looking for love when it is where
you come from.". To a few, that may sound like some hokey line
from a soppy country and western ballad. Be careful. It's
not. It's deeply profound. We're all convinced there's
something inside us, some core, some kernel, some
soul which is the foundation of who we are. In truth,
there's nothing ... and if you can get that, you're free.
You're free to create because in truth, you can only
create coming from nothing. Sorry, but if you create from
something, that's not creating - that's only changing.
As Girly Girl's father and umbilical cord cutter, looking
at her now, a beautiful, svelte, intelligent nineteen year old, I
only need to go back nineteen years, nine months, and one day to
realize there was a time when she wasn't. There was a time when
there was nothing. There was nothing of Girly
Girl. And now, here she is, kicking sand along Goleta Beach with
me, laughing, drenched by the glow of sunset, holding my hand and
hugging me with the sheer joy of celebration and being alive together
... and that's where she came from: nothing. From nothing to
this! Perhaps this is the supreme gift of fatherhood: getting first hand
tangible proof of love coming from nothing. Or maybe it's the second
supreme gift, Girly Girl being the first. Maybe it's both.
Whatever it is, her life and her life in mine is
red-handed evidence of what's possible when it comes to
love and its power to shift realities, to overcome obstacles which at
first seem insurmountable, to break through
impossibilities by allowing them to be, and then coming
back to who we really are for each other: father and
Nothing can change it. No one can get in the way of it, or interfere
with it. It's chiseled into the rock now and for all
eternity. That's the beauty of it:
there's nothing to do
to make it happen, or to ensure its persistence - it's just
This is the bottom line we get, my darling
and I on her nineteenth birthday, laughing, kicking sand along Goleta
Go! Leta beach be a beach.
Everything else follows.
Happy Birthday gorgeous Girly Girl.
Nearly two and a half years after I wrote this essay, I discovered the
beach on which it was written is actually Isla Vista Beach, a beach
adjacent to Goleta Beach, and not Goleta Beach.
The experience and expression of this essay are unchanged by this late
discovery. But in the interests of total accuracy, all occurrences of
Goleta Beach in it should read Isla Vista Beach instead.