Different Car. Same Girl.

On February 12, 1989 I drove the car up to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City and collected my wife and a 3-day-old baby girl. With pomp and fanfare all captured on VHS tape, we brought Caitlin home, along with a mountain of infant paraphernalia, baby girl accouterments, and a heaping, swirling, throbbing sense of uncertainty that we were remotely qualified to take care of the frail, lovely little thing.

As it happened, we didn’t break her and the authorities never came knocking on the door holding papers declaring there had been a terrible mistake. . . that clueless people aren’t supposed to be entrusted with tiny human lives. In fact, over the next five years, the same heavenly bureaucratic oversight that allowed us to get the first one sent us two more baby girls. An embarrassment of riches.

On August 16, 2007, 17 days from now, we’ll gather up a small mountain of big-girl accoutrements and load up for a move once again. Different car. Same girl. Only this time the move is out. Away.

You see, somewhere along the line that baby girl had the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to become a young woman. A curvy, funny, smart, beautiful Jesus-loving woman. One who got herself accepted to a great college. That’s gratitude for you.

Yes, I know millions of families have done this before. And we’ll be only one family in a vast multitude that are experiencing the very same thing at that very same time two weeks from now. But this is my family. That’s my baby girl.

That’s my dinner table that will now be set for four, not five as has been the case for almost 14 years. That will be me telling the restaurant hostess “Table for five please. . . Oh wait. . . I’m sorry, I mean four. Just four.” That’s my house that will ring with one less laugh. That’s my cheek that will be graced with one less nightly kiss. That’s my father-heart that has swelled and healed a little with every “G’night Daddy. I love you so.”

And so you’ll have to forgive me if there’s a selfish part of me that thinks it’s all so very unfair.

Of course, she’ll be back. But we all know it will never again be quite the same. But that’s okay. What has been, has been very, very good. Far better than I deserve.