As I head into my 60th year, I am amazed as I look back on life and reflect on the different stages along my journey. I have always been blessed with a good memory, so my early childhood years, teen years, high school years, and twenties hold a lot of fond recollections, despite some major bumps in the road along the way. My marriage and early restaurant days are all very clear and hold a warm place in my heart. But I almost feel as if my life didn’t truly begin until my wife and I had children.
I was 36-years old when my daughter was born. My son came into this world four years later. I have written before about some type of imaginary box that seemed to have been hidden deep inside of my soul for 36 years, and when my daughter was born it was like that box— undiscovered and unknown to that point— was opened, and I learned of my enormous capacity to love, to give love, and receive love, and how good it felt to be truly needed. I believe I was born to be a father.
My daughter is about to move off and start her life as a career woman. On one hand I am so very proud of her and happy for her. On the other hand, I am not eager for this next phase to begin. The upcoming move has me feeling sentimental, reflective, and slightly melancholic.
Last week she asked if she could meet me for breakfast. I have told both of my children for the past quarter of a century that the answer to the questions, “Can we go to breakfast?” and “Can we go to the bookstore?” will always be answered with an unequivocal and enthusiastic, “Yes!” Last week I wouldn’t have been more excited if a total stranger walked up and said, “Here’s $10,000.00!”
In her first six or seven years we ate breakfast often. Saturday was always daddy-daughter breakfast. Her mom joined us in her first four years, and then, for the next four years my wife would stay home with my son while my daughter and I went to breakfast. We did it that way for two reasons 1.) My wife needed some down time from taking care of two kids. 2.) My son was a terrible restaurant customer until he was well into elementary school.
In those early days, my daughter and I would go to breakfast together in several different locations. We didn’t own a breakfast joint back then, so we travelled around to the town’s available breakfast spots on a rotating basis. We ate donuts, bagels, pancakes, and other breakfast staples. But her main go-to was patty sausage. So much so that one of the waitresses at one of the restaurants we frequented used to call her “Patty Sausage.”
As she grew older, she started to sleep later and Saturday mornings became a time to give my wife a break from the boy, so he and I became fast breakfast companions for the next 10-12 years, as she came to a place in her life where she didn’t even eat a morning meal.
When our family took a long, extended six-month journey through Europe, my son— who was 10 years old at the time— and I woke up early every morning and ventured out into one of the 72 cities we visited for breakfast. The girls slept in. Even after we returned home, the boy and I ate breakfast together often. Eventually the teenager-sleep bug hit him too, and we settled into a sporadic breakfast schedule, as well.
So, it was a great surprise and a huge delight to hear my daughter ask to join me for breakfast last week. So much so, that I was fired up for the two days leading up to it. I am not sure why I hold such a reverence for breakfast. Maybe it’s something that harkens back to my childhood, maybe it’s the freshness of a new day, maybe it’s that enjoy breakfast food items more than lunch or dinner items, or maybe I’m just wired that way. Nevertheless, whatever it is, I love breakfast, and I enjoy sharing a breakfast meal with friends. It’s the highlight of my day when I get to share breakfast with one of my children. Seriously, no matter what happens for the rest of the day, nothing can top that hour in the morning.
She and I had a wonderful breakfast. As a young woman, almost 24 years old, her breakfast tastes have progressed from donuts and pancakes into more responsible adult-type items, as she ordered avocado toast and coffee. I, on the other hand, do not order responsible adult-type breakfast foods, so I ordered pancakes. We sat and talked about her upcoming career move, and I threw in a couple of daddy bits such as, “Always rotate your tires when you change your oil.” But, for the most part, we just conversed as adults do, and enjoyed each other’s company. A banner meal.
At the end of the meal, I told her that I had a surprise for her back at my office. Weeks earlier I had given her one of my turntables, an amplifier, and a pair of speakers for her new apartment. After breakfast, we went to my office and I told her to browse through my album collection and choose any and all of the records she would like for her apartment. This won’t seem like a big deal to 99% of the people who read this column. But it was a huge moment for me. Seriously, huge.
Music is such a big part of my life and has always been a large part of our family dynamic. I sat at my desk, watching her thumb through the album collection I have curated since the mid 1960s, I swelled with pride as the choices she made displayed such excellent musical taste and eclecticism. It was one of those moments that I will always remember from a morning I will not long forget.
There are so many events and occasions that I remember through the years. When I am old and rocking on the front porch, looking back on my life, that two-hour stint with her will rank among the most special.
It’s funny, as parents we spend all of our time molding them to get to a point where they will be independent and self-sufficient adults. Then when they become independent and self-sufficient adults, we long for the days when they were young and dependent. Would I do it all over again? You’re damn right I would, and quicker than you can say “patty sausage.”