I have been sharing my writing with friends, loved ones, and the world at large since 2008. During that time, I have shared the triumphs and traumas of being a husband and father. As a parent, I had great examples before me. My amazing parents reared three children to adulthood. They managed to do this without winding up smoking cigarettes and watching “Captain Kangaroo”.* This may be due to my parents’ tenacity. It may also be due to the fact that both of my parent’s stopped smoking in the mid-1960’s. I can remember looking at my dad and thinking he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I can only hope that my kids will look at me and think I am at least 5' 10" with mild allergies.
I have spoken about all of my four children at one time or another in my writing. On this occasion, I would like to shine the spotlight on my older daughter – Shayna Amarelle McAfee. I was in the delivery room when Shayna entered the world on October 6, 1989. I stood there in the delivery room as I held this beautiful, angelic, newborn baby girl in my arms. I could not help but notice two very distinct features. For one thing, she did not cry as she entered the world. Shayna came into the world sneezing. It wasn't just once or twice. Shayna sneezed over and over again. I nervously hoped this did not indicate she was allergic to her father. Secondly, I held Shayna for quite a bit following her delivery. Unfortunately, I could not tell you for the life of me what color her eyes were. For the entire time I held Shayna, she would not open her eyes. This would turn out to be the first day of many that Shayna would have amusement at my expense. Even as a newborn, Shayna new how to milk a good gag. For the next few days, I would go and visit Shayna after work. She never once had her eyes opened when I was present. I knew she HAD eyes as many people who visited (as well as her mother) told me how beautiful her eyes were. The day she came home from the hospital, I held Shayna in my arms again. Finally, I got to see her eyes. As we gazed at one another, I could feel that our connection was finally complete. It is a connection that I still feel almost 22 years later (as of this writing).
There are many things about Shayna that have changed over the years. I have seen Shayna’s hair go through more colors than Roy G. Biv. Her obsession with Belle and Gaston has segued to a fixation with Harley Quinn and the Joker. Other things have remained the same. She still enjoys reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Still to this day, she saunters across the room on her tiptoes. It’s as if she comes as close as humanly possible to walking on air. She still has the bouncy demeanor of a hyper-caffeinated kangaroo. When she was a child, she spoke of being a doctor. Her vision has shifted only slightly. As I write this, she is preparing to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with a concentration in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program (try saying THAT five times fast).
Shayna, my beautiful daughter, I have tried so hard to find the words to express how happy I am with what you have accomplished and the woman you have become. Some may say that I am blessed with the gift of sesquipedalian loquacity. Others would just say that I use a lot of big words and I talk too much. In any case, when it came time for me to express my feelings, I was unable to find the best way to give the truest justice to my sentiment. Therefore, I turned to someone who is a great influence on my writing – Erma Bombeck. Erma Bombeck was a truly gifted humor writer whose children were grown while mine were still infants. On the subject of college graduation, she offers this musing: "Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed." I couldn't have said it better myself. In all my adult years, I have never been so happy to be “unemployed”. I guess you could now deem me as pater emeritus. That is to say, I am somewhat relieved of my duties but I still hold some of the honor of the position. As you walk into the world, I no longer need to stand as closely as when you first took your tiptoe steps. But always remember that if you feel you may fall, or if you even just feel the need to lean, I am never too far away.
* I often throw references into my writing, often without explanation, assuming that at least SOME people will get it. This is from a song called “Flowers on the Wall”. It was recorded by the Statler Brothers and written by the late Lew Dewitt. It’s a great and humorous song.