I read poetry every day, which no doubt makes me an oddity in the world at large. Why do I read it? Because now and then, I find a poem that expresses exactly what I feel. "No Longer A Teenager" by Gerald Locklin is one of those poems. It's beautifully simple and simply beautiful.
No Longer A Teenager
my daughter, who turns twenty tomorrow,
has become truly independent.
she doesn't need her father to help her
deal with the bureaucracies of schools,
hmo's, insurance, the dmv.
she is quite capable of handling
landlords, bosses, and auto repair shops.
also boyfriends and roommates.
and her mother.
frankly it's been a big relief.
the teenage years were often stressful.
sometimes, though, i feel a little useless.
but when she drove down from northern California
to visit us for a couple of days,
she came through the door with the
biggest, warmest hug in the world for me.
and when we all went out for lunch,
she said, affecting a little girl's voice,
"i'm going to sit next to my daddy,"
and she did, and slid over close to me
so i could put my arm around her shoulder
until the food arrived.
i've been keeping busy since she's been gone,
mainly with my teaching and writing,
a little travel connected with both,
but i realized now how long it had been
since i had felt deep emotion.
when she left i said, simply,
"i love you,"
and she replied, quietly,
"i love you too."
you know it isn't always easy for
a twenty-year-old to say that,
it isn't always easy for a father.
literature and opera are full of
characters who die for love:
i stay alive for her.