The day he drove his daughter to college the sun glared down upon him as if it were laughing in his face. He knew this day was coming, but a deep pit of nostalgia still festered in his stomach with the knowledge that the good memories were behind them.
For her, college felt like a new beginning, but for her father, it felt like a bittersweet ending. He would never again play house, laughing as his joy and pride pranced around with one inch heels like she ruled the world; never again chase his baby girl around the house and sweep her up into his arms; never again read a bedtime story to his daughter before kissing her goodnight and flicking off the lights. College was a reminder that things were changing for the worse.
His daughter chattered the the entire six hour drive to her school, buzzed with excitement. The pit in his stomach grew deeper as she yammered on more and more. When they arrived, she jumped about of the car and flung open the back of the car before her father had unbuckled his seat belt. He wanted to sink into his seat and disappear.
Unloading boxes from the car was just as depressing, if not more. The boxes were labeled and the father pondered how sections of his daughter’s life could be packed away into just a few boxes.
Finally, a single box was left in the car and the man offered to bring it in. When he pulled it out of the car, he sighed wistfully. The side of the box was labeled F A M I L Y in large black letters. Her eighteen years of family was subjected to a single box. He nostalgically peeled open the box and on the top of her things was a black, spiral bound notebook. It’s cover read “Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
Tears welled up in his eyes and it was like a blindfold was removed from his eyes, revealing his selfishness. Life was not ending because his daughter was going away. It was a new chapter for her life, as for his.
He may not be able to play house, chase his daughter around, or tuck her into bed, but a new type of relationship was forming. He would always be the one she called for computer dysfunctions. Would always be the person to call when she needed help with taxes. Would always be the shoulder she cried into when her heart was broken. Would always be the first man who captured her heart. College was a reminder that things were changing for the better.
He wiped his eyes and closed the box, walking it into his daughter’s new dorm.
“Thanks dad,” she said, hugging him. “I’ll call every night.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” he replied, holding her close. “I love you and I’ll miss hearing your loud voice in the mornings.”
“Knock knock! You gotta come see this, girlie!” A girl peeked her head through the doorway. The daughter looked up at her father with pleading eyes.
“Go on, have fun,” her father told her.
“Thanks Dad! I love you!” She kissed his cheek once before pulling away. Squealing with delight, his daughter rushed out of the room, following her new friend.
With soft eyes, the man fondly watched her go. His baby girl had grown up and it was time to let her go on without him always by her side. Leaving the room, he glanced down the hall and saw his daughter laughing at a joke someone had said. She turned and locked eyes with him for a moment before grinning and waving. Smiling back, the man whispered, “I love you.”