He didn't feel the gush that everyone said he would feel the first time he held her in his arms. He frowned. "I've never been especially good about feeling emotions."
There was excitement to be sure. And a feeling of amazement. But mostly the infant seemed like an infinite puzzle to be pieced together. They had a job to do. She needed to eat. Sleep. Learn she was a part of a family.
She would cry from the moment he came home from work, and he would walk around the house with her, showing her the curtains, the flowers, the Kirby Pucket face-on-a-stick; anything to distract her from her exhaustion or hunger for five minutes and then five minutes more. "She was happy before you came home, honest."
Shortly after the colic passed, they watched her roll onto her back. Six eyes grew wide and looked at each other. She immediately began working on rolling the other way. And then crawling. And walking. And talking. Definitely talking.
And with each victory, came more self-assuredness.
Now they had a new job to do. Limits needed to be set and erased. Challenges needed to made and met. Illusions needed to be poked. Usually, the toughest part of the job was knowing when to hold a hand and when to turn away. When to watch out for her without watching her.
It was one of these times that he realized he felt the gush. He hadn't loved her at the hospital. He had fallen in love with her at home. And that was infinitely better.
Yesterday, his wife held her hand until she delivered her to her first kindergarten class - and then she turned away, and walked home.
He hadn't gone. He had gone to work, like he did everyday. It was no big deal. It certainly wasn't for his daughter. Just new friends to play with. A new adult to charm. New toys, and art projects and songs to sing. Not so very different than another activity hour at the community rec center.
But as he drove to work, he realized he knew better.
It was not so long ago. He remembers his kindergarten and Mrs. Manfred. First grade and Miss Oeschlager. His hurry to clear the next hurdle, face the next challenge, race to adulthood.
He sees it in her. She can't grow up fast enough. The blessed quandary about when to hold a hand or turn away will be less frequent now. And he wasn't there this morning because it WAS a big deal.
So on I-94, he found himself struggling to wipe underneath his glasses, as too few memories triggered too many emotions for his eyes to hold. There was sadness. And pride. And the gush. But mostly there was life's intense taste when one is lucky enough to get a full dose.
And he sighed. "I've never been especially good about feeling emotions."