Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20: A Poet Raising a Tweenager

Last night, at the Donald Hall dinner, I felt like an actual poet.  Everyone recognized me as a writer and English professor, not as the person who registered them for their cataract surgeries or urological procedures.  I had the director of the local library tell me I was "absolutely wonderful" in the podcast interview I did a few weeks ago.  When I met a stranger, I didn't begin the conversation by saying, "And are you ready to provide your urine specimen?"  It was a great night.

I have been riding that feeling all day long.  Tonight, I'm going to Donald Hall's poetry reading.  More of the same type of mutual admiration society.  However, when I get home, I will once more be reduced to the father of a tweenage girl.  That means hugs, then hostility.  "I love you, daddy" followed by "You just don't understand me!"  Laughter then tears then laughter again.  In between all those mood swings, I will try to tiptoe my way through the night until it's time to go to bed.

I've written about my worries for my daughter's mental health before.  Because of my wife's bipolar disease, every time I see my daughter step off the dock of sanity into the seas of tweenage girlhood, I wonder if I'm witnessing an episode of manic fury or hormonal normality.  I rock back and forth in my convictions.  Depending on the time of day, the temperature outside, the chicken sandwich I had for lunch, I can convince myself that my daughter is completely normal or is headed for some kind of psychotic break.

I'm hoping what I'm expressing are the normal concerns of the father of a tweenage girl.  I don't want to see my daughter struggle the way my wife has struggled with her illness.  I want my daughter to grow into a confident, beautiful, successful young woman.  Today, I believe that my daughter is in the throes of adolescence.  Tonight, after being in the company of poets, I may go home believing my daughter is on the ridge of madness.

There is no easy solution to my dilemma.  This fear has been with me since my daughter was just a mitten in the crook of my arm.  It sleeps in the top bunk of my daughter's bed.  It follows her to the school bus stop.  When I come home tonight, it will be standing in her shadow when she comes to the front door to greet me.

Saint Marty is going to be a poet tonight.  A father later on.  A worrier always.

Fearing the shadows

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