OK, I know it’s not very manly of me to admit this, and some may say it points to a certain lack of sophistication, but I am a Cyndi Lauper fan, especially the song “Time After Time.” I think that it is simply one of the best songs written in the last 30 years, and even though it has been covered by a variety of other artists, I still like Lauper’s version the best.
The thing that has me thinking about “Time After Time” tonight is that today, my wife and I attended my daughter Hannah’s graduation from high school. Hannah is the youngest of our three children, following her brothers, Jon and Nick, who graduated in 2004 and 2007. So as emotionally charged such an event is anyways, when it’s your youngest, when it’s the last time, it’s even more bittersweet.
“Sometimes you’ll picture me …”
Hannah posted a photo of herself in her pre-school graduation gown on Facebook this morning. It was perfect because it is such a good photo and sums up what a wonderful little girl she was (and is). The thing is, that picture was taken in 1999, which the calendar says is thirteen years ago. I know that in my mind, it was taken only yesterday, and it frightens me how fast time really moves.
I have so many images running around in my head tonight, like when I tucked her in on September 11, 2001, after the World Trade Centers fell, when she said to me, “Leave a light on tonight. That way if something happens, they’ll know there was a little girl in here.”
Or, after learning about fire safety in kindergarten, her obsessive fear of things suddenly combusting into flames, resulting in my realization some five uneventful minutes after putting slices of bread in it that the toaster had been once again unplugged. “Do you have any idea how many house fires start from toasters?” she’d lecture if I dared to complain.
There was the vacation to Kentucky when she was almost four years old, when we were on our way to see the house where Abraham Lincoln was born. “How much longer,” she asked, “until we get to thinkin’ Lincoln?”
When she was little, she had more energy than anything my wife and I had ever seen. “Hurricane Hannah” we called her. From the moment she woke up in the morning, there’d be only one speed, overdrive, and she’d speed and collide and crash her way through the day. And then, suddenly, like a switch had been turned off, she’d be asleep. It always amazed Deb and I. There were times when she’d be talking and she’d stop in mid sentence and not finish. We’d turn around and look and, whether it was in her car seat in the back of the car or the sofa in the living room or a chair at the dinner table, she’d be out, sound asleep, and I’d carry her up to her bed and she wouldn’t wake up until the next morning when the hurricane would strike again.
There were the driving tests I took her for, and there was the first time she drove by herself, to the corner store, my eyes nervously fixed on the driveway until her return.
There were the nights she was out with friends, and the phone calls she always made to her mom and I, telling us where she was, asking if she could stay out an extra half hour and, surprisingly, not complaining if we said no. If we told her she had to be home by ten o’clock, she was home by ten o’clock.
She was always headstrong and stubborn. She was never afraid to argue with her parents, particularly her mother. She could be manipulative and a master at melodramatically changing the point and shifting the blame if she was ever caught doing something wrong. But even when she’d get right in our faces and tell us how wrong we were about whatever, she somehow always remained respectful. She knew which buttons to push, but she also knew which lines not to cross.
“Suitcase of memories”
There are so many moments of inspired nuttiness that we have shared over the years. Like the time we were Christmas shopping in the Casio store at the old, original outlet Mall. She couldn’t have been more than four years old. Standing beside me, Hannah had discovered the electronic drum machine when she said, “Daddy, tell a joke.”
“I just flew in from California,” I said, “and boy, are my arms tired.”
No sooner had I delivered the punch line, Hannah produced a perfectly timed rim shot.
Then there was the time a couple of weeks ago. I was home, working late in my office, when she wordlessly appeared in my doorway, her face white from a new moisturizing crème, and proceeded to do mime routines including being stuck in a glass cage and walking against the wind. When she mimed casting a fishing line in my direction, I knew enough to mime getting hooked, and let her reel me in.
There are the bad puns she forwards to me all the time, the random text messages she sends, including vivid photos of whatever grisly animal they were dissecting in biology class. Whatever, nothing ever consistently brightens my day as much as these isolated moments of silliness. That we share the same sense of humor is a small part of it, that she was thinking of me if for only a moment in her busy day is the bigger part.
If you’re lost you can look and you will find me / time after time / if you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting / time after time
When a father’s little girl grows up, and when he looks at his reflection in the mirror, or at that photograph of himself bald headed and potbellied standing beside her in her graduation gown, he can’t help but wonder if she needs him anymore. Especially when she has turned into such a strong and smart and good person as my Hannah has. But if she ever does, if she’s ever lost or if she ever falls, I will be there for her, and she’ll find me. Time after time.