Had I known that, more than likely, it just might be the last book I would be reading aloud to my daughter I probably would have stretched my words out a little longer.
But it wasn’t until after I had literally closed Homer Hickam’s “The Coalwood Way” last weekend, the sequel to his “October Sky” which we had finished several months back, that Dagny informed me “maybe” she’s too old for my still reading out loud to her.
She’s fifteen now and had a point. Plus, Dagny reads books of her own choosing.
But even though I saw this coming I didn’t see it coming. At least not right now.
I began regularly reading books to Dagny and Katie in late 2009 when their mother and I split. Of course, I read to them before then but usually Mama performed that duty at night while Dad went to sleep a little earlier. I decided, though, to start our own tradition during this challenging time in our lives: every night the girls stayed with me I would read out loud to them. It would be fun, educational, bring us closer together and give us great times and memories that we all three needed. Sometimes they would even return the favor and read to me.
And we really covered some outstanding literary ground if I say so myself.
From biographies of Coco Chanel, Amelia Earhart and Thomas Jefferson, to modern teen novels, to “Treasure Island” and tales of Greek mythology and Alexander The Great, I took extreme joy in reading all of these and many more to my girls. Not only joy in the pleasure (and often knowledge) I was gaining along with them but also in their wide-eyed enthusiasm and excitement over “reading time.”
I can still see them gathering around me, all of us in our pajamas, ready to be transported to some other land or some other time through a great tale or learning something new and fascinating about our glorious world. For a time, I even read to them over the speaker phone at night when they weren’t staying with me! Serious bibliophiles we were indeed.
Our big stretch of reading glory (final, in retrospect) came a couple of years ago when we began consuming just about everything L.M. Montgomery, she of “Anne Of Green Gables” fame, ever wrote. Katie, Dagny and I went through all of the “Anne” series and other of Montgomery’s stories too, finally exhausting the author’s available output last summer. These were delightful novels and tales from a completely different era, a more gentle, gentile time, which I’m so glad my girls got to experience if only through their Dad’s reading.
Last summer, as we were on our last Montgomery novel, Katie left to move away and live with her aunt. Dagny and I continued on with the book (even reading it in the Chicago hotel room when we went to see One Direction) and finally, when finished, deciding on starting one of my favorites, “October Sky,” by the aforementioned Mr. Hickam. I knew he, too, had written a number of books and novels and was looking forward to reading them all to Dag as I had read all of L.M. Montgomery’s corpus.
She was growing up, though. Throughout this same period of regular reading, the Monster High and Barbie dolls, Squinkie toys, Moshi Monsters and assorted other mainstay favorites of Dagny’s “collectibles” were being put away only to collect dust. I suppose I just never thought the time would come when Dad would have to put away his nightly book, too.
But that time did come. And it hit me pretty hard, I must admit.
On the one hand, it’s exciting to see Dagny come into her own as a young adult and to experience deeper and more worldly conversations and shared interests with her. Frankly, though, it’s also been tough for me to see those innocent days of childhood fade away–including that part that loved her Dad reading out loud to her–because I lost some of those days for a number of years, weekend stays notwithstanding.
I’m certainly not the first father to experience this feeling, I know, especially one who has gone through a divorce. To me, there’s just something more special and precious to a man when it comes to his little girl. As I’ve laughingly told Dagny if I had had a son I’d probably be so tough and hard on him he wouldn’t know what to do! But having a daddy’s girl? You spend a majority of your time with her simply melting.
You men out there with daughters know exactly what I’m talking about.
All, however, is not now lost or gone. In fact, new ways have started through which Dagny and I can relate to each other. We’ve even resumed walking together again as we also used to do frequently.
When I tell her goodnight now, however, without having read her a story or a book, I will go to sleep with a slight pang and a certain emptiness in my heart knowing my little girl is gone forever.
Such is a daughter growing up. Such is life’s inevitable change. Such is the relationship between a parent and child.
But reality and necessity doesn’t make it any of it easier.