The passing of time is a Royal Cruel Bitch. I remember turning around, sometime around 1990 and thinking, "what in the hell happened to my twenties???" The same thing happened again in 2000 and 2010, except upon the realization of these milestones, I had accumulated some valuable baggage - my twin daughters, Allison and Logan. Somehow, hitting 40, then 50 didn't have quite the impact of imagining my daughters were 7, then 17. Now, on the dramatic cusp of 18, the girls are ready to move out of the house and into the real world and all I can think is "what the hell happened to my little girls???"
Logan lives with her mother in Dubuque, Iowa, the only town in America, I believe, that has three "u's" in its name. She is graduating a semester early and planning on moving to Wisconsin from Iowa - a lateral move, in my opinion. Allison lives with me and is leaving Wednesday to test the waters in the Berkeley area of California. What the hell - already? Allie purchased her ticket to the Bay Area a couple of weeks ago and has been haphazardly packing all her stuff for me to drive out to her in December, should the move take. Today, I walked into her room and it was entirely packed up and the boxes were stacked and ready to go. "So, you're serious with this move-thing?" I asked. "I thought you were just fooling around..." Nope, she's moving. Logan is making her plans as well. Mike Lyon pointed out, "they've moved out before..." He's right - they've moved from my place to their Mom's a couple of different times - that's how it works, apparently, in these situations where the parents are no longer an item. "Yes," I said, patiently. "But this time she's moving out out..." There is a big difference.
So, my mind has been going over all the memories that have whizzed by since the girls were young enough that it seemed as if there were time for millions more - the possibilities were endless. And just like that, suddenly they're going to be 18 and moving on to make memories of their own, with their Pop taking the backseat and lining up the putt for his Last Great Adventure. It all just went so quickly.
Some random memories:
I remember the tension of their first two months, spent in an NICU in Albuquerque, New Mexico (the other city with three u's in its name - WTF?) and our joy at bringing them home. Our greater joy as the years went by and the girls grew up with no major lingering effects from their premature entry into the world.
I remember bundling them up in their snow gear as toddlers and letting them run in the snow, with me forming and firing snowballs at their backs as they attempted to scamper away in thigh-high snow. My still-supple and accurate arm cut them down as they ran, the snowballs sending them reeling into the drifts. The would rise and howl with laughter and beg for more. I would oblige.
In the days before DVD players in the car, I came up with the idea of putting in their favorite Disney and Pooh videos and running a direct line to my cassette recorder - the same one I used for my mix-tapes (see next memory) - and throwing the cassette into the player in the mini-van on long road trips. They would ride in silence, staring at the dome-light, the movie playing in their heads as we drove and they listened to the soundtracks. A move of sheer genius that I do not receive enough credit for.
I would make mix-tapes of music with everything from Tom Jones and Dean Martin to rare Beatle tracks and Tubes songs. I would crank up the end of "Mondo Bondage" by the Tubes, where there is a huuuge growl and the girls' eyes would pop out of their little bald heads in anticipation of the racket. The beginning of "State of the Heart" by Rick Springfield used to freak them out, Allie reminded me. I do not recall it, but apparently there is a spoken-word intro that I don't remember that used to play before the actual song. That's how strong the memories are. When the girls were still in their mom's tummy, I used to stretch my headphones over the belly and pipe Dean Martin songs in to the twins - when they would get cranky in their high-chairs, I would throw on some Dino and they would quiet the hell down. Another stroke of genius, the prenatal Dino. The girls would sing along with the mix tapes - Allie would sing "SHE'S A LA-DAH" with Tom Jones and "CAN'T YOU SEE - 'EAH!" , leaving the "Y" off "YEAH" in the Beatles' "That Means A Lot" from the Anthology CD.
Music has remained a vital part of the girls' lives and both are talented musicians and songwriters. It makes me proud to think that they sprang from the same hillbilly well that produced a man (my father) who would write a song called "You're Bound to Look Like a Monkey When You Grow Old" about his own son (me). I have encouraged them to try and have a solid back-up plan, just in case the music thing doesn't carry them to the top of the charts and I think they listened. We shall see.
The most lasting memory I have is the laughter that we have shared over the years. They both have marvelous senses of humor and for that I am grateful. Had I been forced to raise a couple of tight-assed, humorless shrews, I might have hurled myself into a live volcano years ago. I once purchased them a beta fish - one of those japanese fighting fish, to put into a tank to test the water. If the water wasn't ready for habitation, the fish would most likely not survive. I explained this to the girls as we drove home, in preparation for the devastation that would most likely occur, should the fish perish. "What should we name the fish?" Logan asked, over and over again. I explained it didn't matter and they could name it whatever they wanted. "Name it 'Ringo" for all I care," I said. There was a slight pause and Logan replied, "If it's going to die, wouldn't it be more appropriate to name it 'John'?" IRONY!!!! I thought to myself. MY GIRLS GET IRONY!!!! We have shared many thousands of laughs over the years and I have bamboozled them into thinking that I am the funniest man on the planet. Great work when you can get it. I often tell them, "enjoy this now - there will be a time when you are changing my diaper and feeding me Scotch in a sippy-cup and saying, 'remember when he was sharp and funny?'"
So it goes. The next stage is up to them and all I can hope is that those of us who have had a hand in their development have done a good enough job to at least get the boat out of the harbor safely. I just want to have the good fortune to be standing nearby, with my hearing aide adjusted so that I can hear them say, "what the hell happened to my thirties???" and smile. And take another sip from my sippy-cup