Friends, acquaintances, and students will testify that I am a hard-ass. I certainly don’t want to disabuse anyone of this persona I’ve painstakingly created for myself over the years. Moreover, I’m a private person. I spend most evenings alone staring at pages in a book or imagined images on a wall. Having joined Facebook recently was a big step for me. Sharing some convivial moments with my classmates these past couple of weeks was another huge step. (Parading around the Capitol naked and holding a sign with three F-bombs written on was yet another milestone, but that's a different issue altogether.) I have become numb to emotional pain. It’s true. I don’t have a soft spot in my heart. I have of late lost all my mirth. I’m fine physically, but mentally, well, I suppose I’ve looked into Nietzsche’s abyss long enough, and, yes, it’s looked back into me.
Yet life is not without its rewards, even for disheartened and disconsolate souls such as myself. My three daughters bring joy to my heart and put a stride in my step. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full. I couldn't ask for a better situation. Erika, Jessika, and Monika are healthy, smart, and talented. Don't worry. These positive comments about my own children are not a circuitous route to lauding my fatherly prowess or personal attributes. Parents inevitably see aspects of their personality in their offspring and claim genetic determinism for this or that physical or behavioral trait, whether or not genetics is the whole story. Some of the physical characteristics that we've bequeathed to our children are clear enough; however, I would suggest that each of my daughters is a self-made woman in the making.
My eldest, Erika (above), who takes after my wife, will turn twenty this November. She is going to college and working as a waitress at an Italian restaurant. I’m so proud of her. She has an artistic sensibility and has a refined taste in film and music. Her creative side also comes out in the art room where my wife teaches high school art. Erika likes to make glass beads. Would that I could better express my feelings to her. Our relationship somehow changed upon my return from Afghanistan a few years ago. I've relished every minute we shared in the car as I'd sometimes take her to school last spring. Now that she has a car, a nice forest-green Jetta, I'll probably see less of her. Jessika will turn 16 this November. I took the photo of her (in the tank top) when we were walking around Tokyo last summer. I suspect her temperament comes closest to mine. She can be hamming it up in a social context one minute, and seeking refuge as a solitary creature in her room the next. She's on the varsity swim team and plays basketball. She likes being the center of attention and indeed has a commanding presence and personality. Monika, the baby of the family, has my eyes and penchant for reading books. As a former musician, I'm proud of her musical interests. She plays standup bass in the high school orchestra. Knowing that athletics builds confidence in girls, we've gotten her plugged into sports. Monika plays on an elite soccer team and is a member of the high school tennis team. On her downtime, she likes to read, play games, and hang out with friends.
Our house can get rather loud and boisterous, what with all the chattering and drama; yet, I wouldn't change it for the world. Three flowers sprung up in our garden of love; I hope they receive the loving nutrients they need to flourish. Yesterday I was changing diapers (my wife much more so!), and today I'm handing them keys to the car. One minute I'm cradling them in my arms, and in the next they're going to the prom. My wife is the best mother in the world, and I owe much to her guidance and active involvement in the girls' lives, especially given my frequent absences due to military responsibilities or otherwise. I miss going to Ski Hi apple orchard with my wife and kids, eating apple-cinnamon donuts and apple strudel. I miss carving pumpkins and setting up Halloween decorations with them. I miss watching Monika at her soccer practice against the backdrop of a red, orange and yellow tree line. I miss going to the theater with Jessi and her friends (when they want me to go along, that is, and when they're not watching a girly movie like, say, "Twilight.") I miss making sarcastic remarks and talking about music with Erika.
As my daughters have gotten older, they’ve realized that I’m not exactly normal, but I hope they know how much I love them. Yes, I tell them I love them from time to time, but that’s just a word. I sent off three Halloween cards back home. I hope the recipients receive them well.