By Sid Salter
STARKVILLE – With the approach of Father’s Day, I marveled at the changes in my relationship with my daughter – the daughter that has preoccupied my thoughts since before I first held her in my arms more than a quarter-century ago.
It’s not merely the passage of time or the fact that she’s grown from a particularly precocious child into a smart, funny and talented young woman. And it’s not that I have released all those fatherly concerns for her happiness, safety and the exercise of her choices. I haven’t.
But slowly, imperceptibly, I have come to feel a shift in the balance of power in our relationship. She is for the most part financially independent of me. She is capable of making decisions without either consulting me or seeking my blessings. She has an independent work ethic and she sets high standards for herself and for others.
In other words, the kid that I had shouting matches with half her life ago over cleaning up her room, finishing tasks, trying new things and being less dependent, has grown up to be a person that no longer needs those parental histrionics.
I see a great deal of her late mother in her at this stage of life. How I wish that her mom could have lived to see how our “best day’s work” – as she called our daughter – turned out.
One thing that has been a pleasant surprise is my daughter’s emerging talents in the kitchen. She came knocking the other day bearing a cake. Not just any cake, but a coconut cake – and not just any coconut cake, but my late mother’s coconut cake recipe.
Skeptically, I took a bite. It was not only as good as my mother’s coconut cake from the same recipe; I actually think it was better. The fact that she went to the trouble to give her dad that welcome trip down memory lane was pleasant enough, but even more so that she was perceptive enough to know how much things like that mean as we grow older.
Since we arrived in Starkville, we’ve had more meals at Kate’s apartment than at home. But it’s been more than simply the fun of family meals. Leilani and I have been mesmerized watching Kate decorate and furnish her apartment, develop her interest in cooking, adopt and care for a new cat and all while maintaining her job and her relationship with her boyfriend – and all without our help.
In fact, it seems that Kate is now the one worried about me and her stepmother. She had begun to nag me about diet and exercise and heat and staying awake driving at night. She actually wants us to call her and let her know we arrive at our destination – what a switch.
More than anything else, our relationship has shifted from one of parent-child to friends and I think that’s strange for both of us. I see down the road a ways – I hope – the time when our current friendship turns back to parent-child, but with both of us playing different roles than we did before. I think she senses that, too.
But for now, there is coconut cake and hugs from her stepmother good memories of her mother. I look back at her baby pictures and wonder where our time has gone – and wonder how much time we have left together?
What Kate likely forgot is that my mother went to trouble to have that coconut cake for my dad on Father’s Day and other holidays and later for me. After she died, I thought that was another on a long list of memories I would not revisit – but thanks to my daughter and my mom’s recipe, I had in one delicious bite a flash of memory of happier days with my dad. What a gift!
Happy Father’s Day.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.