There is an ongoing joke in my family that the world would abruptly come to an end when I become technologically proficient.
As you will see, this joke has been somewhat amended. My wife, Dawn, and daughters, Allison and Audrey, are well-adapted to our changing world.
I prefer to maintain my isolation, peace and quiet. My girls often reminded me of my regular proclamations that texting, tweeting and Facebooking would never, never, never (that’s three nevers) become part of my daily routine.
Well, I have been forced to retract one of my “nevers.” The reason is simple: My girls no longer live at home, so they decided to give me a gift.
I have several titles and many responsibilities, but they collectively seem insignificant compared to my most important job: Dad.
While the other jobs provide money and recognition, my job as a father pays with love. The trust and love that Allison and Audrey have given me over the years are the only payment I will ever need. They are so precious to me.
Although I am proud of the fact that they are goal-oriented and are working hard to achieve their goals, I just miss them so much. I’m not handling this empty nest situation very well.
Our girls grew up in a neighborhood filled with children and many of us have daughters. Several of us dads formed an informal support group, and we compared notes, shared advice and worried together as the girls passed through the stages of their young lives.
As Garrison Keilor stated so well, “The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage.”
Now we have gone from coaches on the sideline to spectators in the stands. Fathers may appear strong and protective, but inside we are terrified of change.
In quiet moments when I look at photo albums of my little girls, I unable to fight back tears. They are tears of joy and sadness. The sadness comes from getting older and not knowing where the time has gone. The joy comes from knowing we did well as parents.
Dawn and I have raised two daughters who are independent, responsible, thoughtful young women. They have beautiful souls. We just miss them so much.
Last year, when Allison was near the end of her second year in law school in D.C., I received a text from her as I sat watching a baseball game. At first, I was startled by the sound.
My phone at that time was rarely turned on. “Hi Dad. Guess where I am?” I painfully, slowly typed out the reply, “Where?” She replied that she was in the right field stands at the Braves-Nationals game. This was the game I was watching on TV. That short exchange began a father-daughter bonding experience we now refer to as “texting a game together.”
That night, we texted between innings and commented on aspects of the game. It is good that a baseball game moves slowly because my texting did as well. That was OK; I was spending time with my girl. That fall we moved on to texting football games and later, hockey.
Soon Audrey joined in, texting regularly from Furman University. Audrey and I specialize in random, Seinfeld-like messages. She ends most of hers with “I love you to the moon and back.” My reply? “Thank you. I love you too.” I can type that one with no effort at all.
My daughters’ gift to me was a reminder that if you don’t like a situation, you need to channel your energy into changing it. Time is not going to stand still, which forces you to make the most of the hand that you are dealt.
Being in almost daily touch with my daughters offers details and subtleties that are easily missed with a weekly or monthly phone call recounting past events. Catching up is replaced by keeping up.
Often when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. I now see texting as a way to stay connected with my girls. It is a source of joy, sharing and peace of mind.
By the way, in case you are wondering, texting is the limit for me. Tweeting and Facebooking will never, never (that’s two nevers) become part of my daily routine.
Dr. Todd Heldreth is a veterinarian and biology professor at Charleston Southern University. He and his wife, Dawn, live in Summerville. They have two daughters.