Father Time Needs a Brake Job

I hate growing up.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I actually hate growing older.

No, that’s not right, either. I hate growing older and having those “uh oh” moments that remind me of the fact that, yes indeed, time is fleeting.

My daughter turned four this week. The third child of four that were never supposed to happen to an “infertile” couple like us. My baby girl. My only girl. Four years old.

But it wasn’t the birthday that got me all choked up. It was one of the things she wanted for her birthday. No, she didn’t request a new doll or another dress-up set. She said she had plenty of coloring books. Thank God she didn’t ask for a cell phone. And what she wanted wasn’t expensive.

It was priceless.

All she wanted was to look at pictures.

Specifically, she wanted to look at photos from the first year or so following her birth. Not exactly one to deny my little princess anything on her birthday (or any other day) I obliged. I connected my laptop to our big screen television in our living room, and I fired up the slide show.

And I bawled my silly eyes out.

There on screen—in high definition and vivid color—exactly four years earlier, was my wife’s doctor holding up the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. There I posed wearily at the door of our car right next to a tiny bundle of pink strapped snugly in the middle seat, as a pediatric nurse snapped one more hospital picture. There were our two older boys—the big brothers—giddy with excitement as they welcomed their sister home.

There were the first milestones: the first smile, the first outing, the first bite, and the first steps. There was the first Christmas, the first Valentine’s Day, the first Easter, and the first birthday party.

There were other firsts, too. A lump developed in my throat as I relived the first day of kindergarten for my oldest boy, perhaps the worst day (emotionally speaking) of my life to date. Shortly thereafter, we saw the first day of pre-K for our second little boy.

Sadly, there were farewells, too: a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandmother. I cursed the name “Ike” out loud as we traveled back in time to New Year’s 2007 at our camp—the same camp that would be rendered useless due to hurricane only a year and a half later. And my heart skipped a beat as a short series of photos of our first minivan, crumpled violently in a heap, passed across the screen. Oh how blessed we were that day—two parents and three children walking away from a wreck that so easily might have ended in tragedy.

I wish sometimes that my sensitive side didn’t have such an exposed trigger button. As I watched through blurry eyes my kids gain another year, I found myself literally afraid to blink. I dreaded missing even a single picture in the slide show. If only for a moment, my babies were babies. If only for a passing minute, I was the proud dad parading around with the newest, most precious little girl in our neighborhood. If only.

If only the pain in my heart would go away.

As I wiped away a scorching tear from my cheek, the resident princess in our kingdom slid down the couch and laid her head on my shoulder.

“Why you crying, Daddeaux?” she asked with the innocence only a little girl of her age can command. “Don’t you know today is my birthday? I am four years old. No crying.”

OK, I promise not to cry. You promise to stay four years old. Deal?


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