I was outraged. The nerve of this woman who gave birth to me and took care of my every want and need for 22 years to now demand payment for food and shelter, at a time when we didn't have cable and she refused to turn the furnace on until we could see our breath indoors. But I couldn't afford an apartment on the pittance I was earning. So I paid … under protest.
I left the first check in an envelope for her, knowing full well that she would take it to the bank where she had been the manager three years earlier and where everyone knew her. On the memo line, in huge letters that the teller couldn't miss, I wrote: “CONDOMS.”
When my mother came home, still unsure whether she would kill or simply maim me, she requested that I not do that again. I agreed. The following month, I wrote “PROPHYLACTICS!” in bigger letters.
How I ever made it to 23 is a mystery.
I've been thinking of those days because my 22-year-old daughter, Megan, has her first full-time job and, unlike me at that age, can afford her own place. In fact, her younger brother regularly and sometimes loudly suggests it.
I'm torn. Her mother and I could ask her to pay room and board, but I shudder at how karma would come back to bite me if we did. We could pack up her stuff and tell her it's time to go, the equivalent of tossing a bird from the nest and forcing it to learn to fly. But that seems needlessly harsh. (That's how I feel today. Ask me how I feel the next time she wakes me up early in the morning or late at night because she has never quite mastered the indoor voice.)
Here's what makes it especially difficult: I really like her.
That might sound like a strange thing for a father to say about his daughter, but some of you with offspring who are teens or older understand that as much as we love our children, sometimes they're not the most likable creatures.
Part of it is Megan's sense of humor. She is a riot. Over the last several years, I lost a lot of weight and got in decent shape. It's a point of pride for me. Yet Megan doesn't let a day go by without calling me “Fatty,” and it cracks me up. (It also proves that the apple doesn't fall far from the humor tree). One morning, I left a note on the table that said I was out running. When I returned, I found a note from her that said, “Maybe get a salad for dinner?”
The time will come when she is going to leave whether I like it or not. When that happens, I know I will immediately begin reminiscing about moments like that one, much like my mother and I fondly recall the check story.
Megan was looking at apartment listings a few weeks ago. She was asking questions about utilities, off-street parking, neighborhoods and carefully weighing her options. For now, she's in no hurry to strike out on her own, but there's no sense denying the obvious: She's 22, gainfully employed and ready to live like the adult we always hoped she would grow up to be.
I guess maybe I'm just not ready to start missing her.