Sweet sorrow

An old friend is sending his daughter off to college this month. The pictures of her he’s posted to his company’s Facebook page are paired with a brief but obviously heart-felt narrative that ends, “Bye-bye, my little girl.”

One commenter, an experienced empty-nester I’m guessing, observes there that “a huge hole (will be left) in a family, but more than anything, in a dad’s heart.” He goes on to offer his prayers, “especially for dad.”

Since my friend’s daughter isn’t actually going anywhere, not geographically, the prayers and farewells might seem a bit overwrought to the uninitiated (like me), but rites of passage are about psychological distances, aren’t they? Necessary psychological distances we place between ourselves and all manner of things, many of which we’d kill or be killed by if we held our ground.

Not that knowing this makes any of the distances any easier to endure.

Another friend once described to me the “sweet pain” of childbirth. She’d gone through it three times by then, so I took her at her word. Still do.

Nevertheless, with apologies to her and to mothers everywhere as you roll your eyes, I have to wonder whether there might be something comparably difficult that happens to some fathers when some daughters transition from childhood to adulthood. A “sweet sorrow,” we could say.

Way out of context, I know, here’s from a passage that comes to mind:

Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone—
And yet no farther than a wanton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.