Others have proclaimed the wonderfulness
of empty nesting, the final leaving of the young birds,
the children who made messes in the backyard,
left clothes lying everywhere because they couldn’t
decide which skirt or which blouse or which pair of pants
they needed to wear on a particular Wednesday;
children who talked incessantly on the telephone or texted
everyone they knew, even at the dinner table,
ignoring the rest of us while we ate casseroles and fresh bread;
children who often failed to call when they weren’t coming home
when they said they were, failed to sense the feelings
of anxious parents who paced back and forth to the window,
staring out into the darkness, or standing sentinel over the phone,
hoping, just hoping the phone would ring or at least something
would jar the black night, the quietness of the living room.
Only when they did leave, we wished they were back,
laughing at the craziest thing, singing songs from musicals,
or repeating dialog from movies like Napoleon Dynamite, Mean Girls.
Only when you receive that call from one of them, casually
mentioning that a car hit her while she was riding a bike.
Only when your other daughter plays the role of surrogate parent,
rushes to the scene, takes charge like you would have done, visits
with the doctors and nurses, lovingly maneuvers the injured
to dinner and then home to bed and hopefully blissful sleep.
Only when the two daughters grow closer, best friends,
forgetting the shouting matches when they were teenagers,
forgetting the hogging of the bathroom and being late together,
forgetting the cold shoulders, the no talk times,
forgetting the clandestine sharing of clothes and shoes.
Perhaps, it is just me, the soft father who tears up at the mention
of his children and their goodness and their closeness,
who aches for the little ones to return, the daddy-daughter dates,
times in Mexico teaching negotiation skills, prom nights,
mowing lawns and planting garden flowers and vegetables together,
even a few clothes—just a few—on the floor to remind me
that they are still my babies, still huddled in the nest, waiting
for Dad to return with pizza and half gallons of ice cream.