An Evening Drive

If you could catch father­hood in a bot­tle, it would be filled with mo­ments like th­ese

Reader's Digest International - - Contents - BY JOE POSNANSKI FROM JOEPOSNANSKI.COM

If you could catch father­hood in a bot­tle, it would be filled with mo­ments like th­ese.

SSHE’S 14 NOW, A TUR­BU­LENT AGE. Ev­ery­one warned us. There will be times when she’s still your lit­tle girl, they said. And there will be other times when she lashes out with such fury, you will won­der where ev­ery­thing went wrong. Ev­ery­one warned us, and we be­lieved them. We had plan­ning ses­sions about the fu­ture, talks about pa­tience and open­ness and firm­ness when needed.

We were ready. We weren’t ready. Elite ath­letes will tell you that in their first pro­fes­sional game, ev­ery­thing moves so im­pos­si­bly fast that there is no pos­si­ble way to pre­pare for the speed and fury and vi­o­lence of it all.

We were ready. We weren’t ready. She gets into the car. It is night­time, and I’m pick­ing her up from an ac­tiv­ity, and she is happy. She used to al­ways be happy. Now it’s a 50-50 propo­si­tion. She shows me a picture she wants to post on In­sta­gram of her and a friend. She asks if it’s OK. I tell her it’s OK. I don’t know if it’s OK; I’m try­ing hard to keep up with the rules. She is happy.

We sit in the car, and we are stuck at a red light be­cause of the in­de­ci­sion of the car in front of us. I growl at this car. She laughs and growls too. I re­mem­ber when she was a baby and would make th­ese funny growl­ing sounds. We once took her to a spring­train­ing base­ball game in Florida. It was un­sea­son­ably cold, and we had her bun­dled up in this baby blan­ket. Ev­ery now and again from the blan­ket there would be a loud “Rah­h­hhrrrrrrr,” and peo­ple in the few rows in front of us would look back to see who or what was mak­ing that sound.

The light turns green. We talk about noth­ing. It is pleas­ing for a mo­ment not to be ask­ing her about school or home­work or friends, and pleas­ing for her for a mo­ment not to be talk­ing about any of it. The air is cool and per­fect, and the win­dows are cracked; “Video Killed the Ra­dio Star” plays on the ra­dio. “I like this song,” she says. I tell her that years ago, I made lists with my friends Tommy and Chuck of our fa­vorite hun­dred songs, and this was on it.

“Would it be now?” she asks.

She’s in a cu­ri­ous mood. She used to be cu­ri­ous all the time. “Tell me a story of when you were a lit­tle boy,”

I think back to a time when she raced over to me, hugged me, and wouldn’t let go.

she’d say. She does not say that much now. Cu­rios­ity for a teen is a sign of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, a too-ea­ger ad­mis­sion that there are things she doesn’t know. I re­mem­ber that feel­ing. She yells some­times, “I don’t need your help!” I re­mem­ber that. She yells, “Get away from me! You don’t un­der­stand!” I re­mem­ber that. She yells, “It doesn’t mat­ter. I’m go­ing to fail any­way.” I re­mem­ber that most of all.

She has lit­tle in­ter­est in re­mem­ber­ing. For her, the clock moves for­ward, and she wants to look for­ward— there’s so much out there. In a year, she will be in high school. In two years, she will be able to drive.

In three years, she will start look­ing

hard at col­leges. In four years, she will be a senior in high school. For­ward. Al­ways for­ward.

And I look back.

Al­ways back. I am car­ry­ing her, her tiny head on my shoul­der, and I’m sing­ing “Here Comes the Sun,” try­ing to get her to fall asleep. I am walk­ing with her through the gift shop at Harry Pot­ter World as she goes back and forth be­tween want­ing a stuffed owl or a Gryffindor bag. I am help­ing her with her math home­work when the prob­lems were easy enough that I could fig­ure the an­swers in my head. I am watch­ing The Princess Bride with her for the first time, and I hear her say in her squeaky voice, “Have fun storm­ing the cas­tle!”

“Hey, Dad,” she asks, “can I have your phone? Can I play some mu­sic?”

“Sure,” I tell her. She punches a few but­tons, the song be­gins, and im­me­di­ately I know. It’s her fa­vorite song, by the Amer­i­can al­ter­na­tive rock band Death Cab for Cutie.

“I once knew a girl

In the years of my youth

With eyes like the sum­mer

All beauty and truth

In the morn­ing I fled Left a note and it read

Some­day. You will. Be loved.”

I in­tro­duced her to it a while ago. “What kind of mu­sic would I like?” she had asked. “Why don’t we try some Death Cab for Cutie?” I had said. She was smit­ten.

She is smit­ten now. She sings along to ev­ery word. I do too.

“You may feel alone when you’re fall­ing asleep

And ev­ery time tears roll down your cheeks

But I know your heart be­longs to some­one you’ve yet to meet.

Some­day. You will. Be loved.” She looks up at me and smiles.

Her teeth are straight; the braces are gone. She leans closer and says, “Don’t you love this song, Daddy?”

I hear her say “Daddy” and think back to a time when she raced over to me at the air­port af­ter I re­turned from a trip, hugged me, and wouldn’t let go. She’s 14, a tur­bu­lent age. To­mor­row, she may look right through me. But now, in the cool­ness of the evening, she smiles at me and holds my hand, and we sing along with Death Cab for Cutie. We are off-key. We are off-key to­gether.

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