When I was young, let’s say 6 or 7, my mother left the house for a day. Whether it was for a doctor’s appointment, lunch with a friend, or grocery shopping I can’t remember, but either way, she had left me in the care of my father.
When my father had stepped outside to tend to something in the garage, he was surprised to find that the door leading back into the house was locked. So was the front door. And the sliding glass doors that led into the home from the back porch. As he stood on the porch looking into the home, he saw me, sitting cross-legged in the center of the living room floor. I was watching cartoons.
He knocked on the window to grab my attention. He knocked a bit harder. Called to me through the sliding glass. Used the flat of his fist to really give the window a go… and all the while, I sat cross-legged, watching TV, ignoring him.
After some time, my father sat on the furniture outside and waited until my mother got home or I broke down and let him in. Eventually, I unlocked the door.
“Did you lock me out of the house?” he asked, his voice tinged with frustration.
“Why would you do that?”
“I wanted some time alone,” I said and shrugged, disappearing back into the house.
When my father tells the story, he laughs, eyes glistening with tears at the simplicity of my statement. His fear and irritation long forgotten.
“She wanted time alone!” he says now, lifting his arms in a helpless gesture, mirth causing his voice to shake. “I guess I had to give it to her.”
For many years, my father stood on the other side of the glass, looking in on my life and I, though slightly older (but still cross-legged) did my best to ignore him. We are both responsible for the years that separated us, for the time spent on our own. We both are to blame for the distance that once divided us.
But the greatest gift my father gave me, both when I was 7 and in the years that followed, was to allow me that time alone. To grant me the freedom, the independence, to grow up as I will into the woman I am today.
His second greatest gift? Being there when I unlocked the door and allowed him back in.