I returned home after an hour at the auto shop. When I opened the front door, the kitchen light was on and voices called out from the television in the living room.
“Good morning, Daddy,” my daughter greeted me.
I threw down my keys and wallet and walked in to find her sprawled out on the couch watching the latest Disney sitcom, Jessie. She and I joke about the theme song for the show; the singer pronounces the character’s name “Jess-SAY.”
“What are you doing up so early?” I asked.
Our dog, Gareth, ran hopped up and down, begging for a walk. Since my son didn’t have a cross country meet that morning, I had plenty of time to take Gareth out for fresh air. I asked my daughter if she’d like to come with me, assuming that she’d turn me down. The two of us haven’t done much father daughter bonding, as of late. She’s twelve, practically thirteen; I don’t quite get her all of the time and she can get annoyed with me. She especially doesn’t like when I write about her on a blog post and won’t let me use her name if I do. It’s tough to discuss about your family when one of them is only referred to by pronouns or “my daughter.”
To my surprise, my daughter wanted to go. She went to get dressed while I put Gareth in his dog harness and attached it to his leash. The dog’s nails clicked on the kitchen floor as he awaited for my daughter. After only a few minutes we left the house and walked out into the brisk morning air.
The city park is just a hundred yards from where we live. One of our neighbors has a cut through on the side of their house that gives passage to the running trail that goes around the park. This is the path I take Gareth on each morning before I leave for work. He practically leads me on the walk while I daydream or concoct elaborate plots for books and screenplays I hope to write someday, but probably won’t. My daughter took the leash for the first part of our walk while I was assigned poop duty. I’m sure you don’t need me to describe what that means.
We talked about her school and how she was enjoying it. She’s an excellent student and I’m very proud of her, although it embarrasses her when I tell her that. As we spoke, most of her statements came out like questions. “I have this test in history? It’s taking place on Monday? It’s going to be really hard.” My replies were succinct and mostly “uh huh” and “that’s great.” I wasn’t so interested in offering my two cents. Instead, I wanted to hear her thoughts and, truthfully, just spend some alone time with her.
The running trail was relatively empty, save for a few joggers, and the sun was already heating up the October sky. On the large park fields, a flag football league was holding games. Little boys ran around in shorts that came to their knees and jerseys that they would one day grow into. Parents and coaches barked encouraging remarks as the boys threw the ball, too big for their hands. Elsewhere, other dog owners were walking their pets, most of them creatures that towered over Gareth, a small, Chihuahua mix- we think he has some terrier in him. My daughter doesn’t like it when other dogs approach as Gareth thinks he can take on the world. It takes a pretty strong hand to keep him from getting into it with others.
We rounded the park and started for home. At times she slipped her arm through mine, other times she held my hand. I marveled at how much she’d grown, as fathers are prone to doing during a unique morning like this one. How could the baby that I held in my arms be this teenager next to me? Where had the time gone? How many more walks before she’s through with me? We spoke about one of her cousins, now a freshman in high school. In just two short years she, too, would be in high school. That time would fly by, just as the past twelve years have.
We returned home to our quiet house, where my wife still slumbered and my son was fast asleep.
I was in the mood for donuts. During my childhood, my dad always brought home donuts on Saturday mornings and this was the perfect day to uphold the tradition. My daughter and I went drove off to Donut Inn, one of those storefront donut shops that show up in small towns. Once there, we selected two donuts each and a couple for her mom. Since Jacob only likes the little powdered donuts found in the grocery aisle, we would stop at Vons on the way home. Leaving Donut Inn, her eyes were excited in anticipation for the maple ring donut she had picked for herself.
As I started the car, Death Cab for Cutie’s “No Sunlight,” came on the radio.
“I love this song,” I said, turning up the volume.
The song played the entire way to the grocery store and serendipitously ended as I shifted our Jetta into park at Vons. It is odd how a song with a catchy melody, yet depressing lyrics, can bring a tear to your eye because it creates a lasting memory of an hour with your child.
Inside Vons, the two of us strolled to the bakery aisle and found Jacob’s donuts. I stopped for a coffee and then we left. There wasn’t much conversation after that. I sipped my coffee and a random song accompanied us. Moments later we were home again, sifting through the bag of deliciousness. My daughter took a bite of her donut.
“Mmm, that’s good,” she said, walking into the living room to finish watching Jess-SAY.
“Yeah,” I said to myself, “that’s a good donut.”
Saturday morning, 9:15 AM.