Our youngest daughter Claudia graduates from college this week. My wife Susan flew to Colorado today for the ceremony and celebration. I stayed home to care for our animals.
Now I wish I could be there, especially as I won’t see her much in the coming year. This summer Claudia returns to Browns Canyon as a whitewater rafting guide. Last year’s highlights included sleeping in a Honda Civic (it snowed and her tent was freezing), a horribly infected toe, and hypothermia after swimming a carnivorous Class IV rapid.
Then she’s off to Spain to teach English in Entrevías, the poorest neighborhood in Madrid, and the subject of Wrong Side of the Tracks. While I’m not immune to aporophobia, I’m comforted by this article, and I doubt it’s as dangerous as Boulder.
Still, I worry. She has a higher tolerance for conflict and risk than I. Not long after learning to talk, Claudia told me “You are not the boss of me.” And she was right.
Don’t be fooled by the photo. Claudia is tough. In middle school, she battled the dress code and delivered a graduation speech wearing a (forbidden) spaghetti strap dress. In high school, she loved volleyball workouts that left her teammates vomiting and crying. Working at a dog kennel, she wrestled agitated Pit Bulls and Rottweilers into baths. And as an animal assisted therapy volunteer, she literally wrangles mustangs.
When Claudia and I fight, it’s unstoppable force meets immovable object. Once I was so angry, I took and hid her iPhone. A week later, I couldn’t find it. So I bought her a new one. Two years ago, I told Claudia she absolutely positively should not get a dog while in college. Then I fell head over heels in love with Cinder. Okay, so I’m movable.
But seriously, I’m not emotional. Sometimes I think I’m dead inside. It’s not our culture. I’m not ashamed to feel. I blame testosterone. I simply don’t have big feelings often. So I was quite surprised while writing this piece to discover tears streaming down my face.
I’m sad I won’t be at graduation to give my daughter a hug. I’d tell her I’m so proud of you. You are kind, funny, brilliant, and beautiful. You are the bravest person I know.
I miss our baby girl. It’s hard to let her go. But I can’t protect her anymore. It’s her time. She needs wide open spaces. Room to make her big mistakes. Still, there are things I want to tell her. I know you’ll be great. I have confidence in you. But the world is hard. If you ever need me, I’ll be there. Claudia, I love you, and I’ll always be your dad.