In my office at home is a framed photograph of my daughter Alison at age two looking straight out at the world with dark eyes and a steely gaze that says “I am ready for whatever the world wants to throw my way.” The black & white photo was taken by my then father-in-law Hank Fagliano who somehow captured, in that one moment, the personality and nature that was to develop in this child who was born on Beethoven’s birthday.
I was 35 years old when she was born and more than ready to take on the responsibilities of fatherdom. In those early years Ali, her mom and I lived in a remote farmhouse on Tomales Point about 18 miles away from the headquarters of Pt. Reyes National Seashore where I worked. It was an isolated existence that didn’t always agree with us but it gave my daughter and I plenty of opportunities to wander the headlands, explore the old farm buildings, feed the chickens, and share in a somewhat idyllic childhood. The imprint of that time period still sits fondly with both of us.
In time there was the move to Arizona, the marital upheaval, the gut-wrenching separation that would bring all of us back to Northern California. And thereafter the desperate custody weekends when Ali and I would cram every minute with father/daughter activities and moments. Then, before long, high school. Athletics. College. Independence The graduation into adulthood. And now, a much anticipated marriage at the end of this summer.
On top of our piano is another photograph of me with my other daughter Lindsay. She is sitting against me and I am sitting against a sandstone wall in an alcove on the Paria Plateau. I was nearly 50 when she was born on the same birth date as Groucho Marx. She became a reader. A talker. An effervescent cultivator of nerdism. An academic whiz. A lover of eclectic lists. There has been no marital upheaval in her life so I’ve been able to experience parent nights at school, band concerts, camping trips, her funny friends.. She understands that we are older than most of her peers’ parents so that may explain why she treats us with so much kindness and love.
Neither daughter has been the typical “out of control” teenager in spite of countless admonitions and doom & gloom forecasts from others. Both have been happy to forge ahead and establish their identities, free from coercion and with minimal guidance. Both have given me love, hope and courage and a reason to believe in the future. They are my friends. My heroines. My daughters.