The Move

December 11, 2009

So far, my daughter plans to live in Texas after she gets married. Her attitude: no big deal. Until she talked to her future sister-in-law, the one from Brazil who is currently living in Florida.
“How do you deal with being so far away from home?” my daughter asked.
“See this?” She showed my daughter a great big butcher knife. “When my husband’s at work during the night, this is what I keep under my pillow.”
My daughter immediately invoked the 10-second rule and removed her engagement ring.
I remember her first attempt to move out. She was barely eighteen, and it was the week after her high school graduation. I decided that I would quit raising my kids once they turned eighteen. They could come and go as they pleased, do whatever they wanted to; I wasn’t going to make decisions for them or pressure them. They would have to work for their triumphs and work out their mistakes, on their own. That was my rule.
I wasn’t the type of parent to interfere. Not much anyway. I proved that when my daughter was a mere seven years old. We were sitting on a little retaining wall by the driveway. My daughter was picking a scab on her knee.
“Don’t do that,” I said.
She looked at me, a little stunned.
Then I said, “No. I’m not going to tell you what to do. It’s your body. If you want to ruin it and make the cut worse and make it bleed and risk infection and leave a scar, go ahead. I wouldn’t do it, but if you want to, go ahead. It’s your choice.”
She never changed her expression or took her eyes off me. She reached down and ripped off the scab.
Eleven years later, she would disrupt my peace and express her independence a second time, which brings me back to her threat to move out. Her best friend at the time was told she would have to get a place of her own upon graduation. The friend was fine with the idea, and so was my daughter. They decided they would move out together. I never took them seriously. My daughter had no car and no savings. She worked part time at the Subway and no interest in the future. She was as aimless as a falling leaf, and I liked watching her hover, because I knew that a gentle, kind breeze would catch her and carry her someplace where she could thrive. I didn’t want to interfere with what I considered the “natural flow,” so I let her float. But instead of a nice, promising breeze, my daughter was swept up by a big, blustery, foul wind. To put it less poetically, she was being pressured by her best friend’s mother.
Weeks before graduation my daughter mentioned her plans to move out, and I continued to dismiss her. The more serious she became about leaving, the more logical I became about why the idea was bad. The more logical I became, the more adventurous and free spirited she became, and the more she quoted me.
“You said I should make my own decisions. You said I should take chances. You said I should run off to Paris.”
Yes, I did.
I’ve been to Paris, and let me tell you, my daughter was not going to find Paris in the direction she was headed. Her best friend’s mother found a place in a questionable part of town that was not safe for two eighteen year old girls to live—I called the area rundown, dark and scary. The mother called it affordable. They would have no furniture. To get to Subway, my daughter would have to take the bus—the mother’s idea, since my daughter didn’t have a car. I envisioned my daughter waiting at midnight for a bus, because that’s when she usually ended her shift. Then I envisioned her getting off the bus and walking several blocks in the dark to her apartment. I immediately noticed in my vision the letch in the back of the bus, studying my daughter’s daily pattern. Well, you can imagine the rest. Next, I did the math. Rent, food, bus pass –that’s a lot to ask of a part time income at Subway, and my wife and I were not in a position to help at the time.
“I can make it work,” she said.
Honestly, I could not understand why she kept insisting on ruining her life. Then, just hours before she had planned to move, it hit me. Her friend had a brand new car, a gift from grandpa. She had a decent paying job, at grandpa’s insurance firm. She had a financial safety net and the promise of tuition, if she decided to pursue education. What she didn’t have was a companion, and mothers don’t force their daughters from the home without a companion. She didn’t mind sacrificing my daughter’s welfare to see to the welfare of her daughter.
I realized that my rule to not pressure my children into doing things against their will or against good judgment was not universal. Just because I didn’t want to push them didn’t mean others wouldn’t, and when I realized that this mother was going to have her way with my daughter, I decided to push back, and I used the only weapon I had at my disposal. Tears.
Yes, I cried.
I yelled, “Why are you doing this? This is not a good idea. All you will learn from this is how to be poor. You will get good at going without, and struggling. And when your friend, who has money, wants to go out and eat or wants to go shopping, you won’t be able to, and you will lose her too.”
That mother was powerless against my moistened cheeks, and my daughter’s resolve washed away in a flood of her own tears. She stayed home that night, bravely breaking the news to her friend. Not long after that episode, she left Subway for a better job. Two weeks into the new job, she was fired. I assured her she would find her way. She decided to begin her job search at an employment agency. While the counselor was collecting profile information, another woman walked into the room and approached my daughter.
“Did I hear you say that you want to be a nurse?”
“Yes,” my daughter said.
The woman interviewed my daughter and hired her on the spot. The company was Beehive Homes, a group of assisted living residences. My daughter loved the work, and she grew to love the “olds” as she called them. And they grew to love her. One in particular was so fond of her that she introduced my daughter to her grandson, M.

One Response to “The Move”

  1. Devri Daybell said

    I remember. Love your posts, can’t wait for the next one.

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