Every morning, I will bring my daughter to school. It is just before sunrise. She is in primary three. It is about a 15-minute walk. She is actually quite talkative. She will talk to me about her friends, teachers and homework. Now this is the part that is relevant. I will walk her to the side-gate leading to her school and say my goodbye. The next time I see her again will be when I return from work in the evening.
My point is that I will wait by the side-gate to watch her as she disappears into the corner, behind the adjoining wall. That short span of time before I see her no more is about 12 seconds. During this brief moment, I will lookout for her with her back facing me. While I stood still, she will be walking away from me. But I am still present, within reach, nearby. And my gut-feel tells me that she knows that.
My goodbye is therefore just dispensing with formalities. It is not really goodbye in that sense. It is actually telling her that I will be watching her from where I am standing. And here is the emotional sweetener for me. My deliberate wait is purposive. It is in fact a sublime form of father-and-daughter's connection.
Eagerly, I will be waiting for that endearing response from her. Somehow, my hunch tells me not to blink. My paternal instinct whispers to me that it is coming. And right on the tugging of the heartstring, it comes on cue. She turns back to look for me, trying to sort me out from the crowd of parents seeing off their kids by the side-gate. Without fail, she will find me. It is like we never parted. Our eyes would meet for a split second or two and the icing on the cake would be her returning smile.
That smile would be visibly strained no doubt - because she is with her classmates - but it is enough for me. Just for that second, just for that smile, I felt my heart skipped a beat. That is my defining moment and it somehow condenses that 15-minute walk and 12-second wait into an inflection point in my life.
Of course, she doesn't always turn back and smile as she walks away. But when she does, I could feel that familiar seismic flutter in my heart, much like the butterfly effect of deep enduring changes. And these are actually building-block moments for our relationship. However routine this father-and-daughter exchange seems to bystanders, to me, it is a metaphor for something rather meaningful. It is teaching me the sacred responsibility of being the gatekeeper in her life. It is telling me to be her watchtower. Not in a Big-Brother sort of way but in a quiet, unobtrusive and protective I-will-be-there-for-you kind of emotional anchorage.
She can always count on me to unsparingly give her my time, my support, and my unconditional love. I will always be there to celebrate her little milestones in life. And I will never shirk or cringe or hesitate when the occasion calls for me to be a little haven for her when the storms of life come rushing in. Being imperfect myself, I will shield her from the storm and if I can't, we will weather it together. She will therefore not be alone. For this reason, she should never doubt even for a moment that I share her heartbreak and her pain. We are connected the day she was born and this bond endures even after I am gone.
So, this brings me back to our morning walk and her returning smile. These are the moments that I am always grateful for and will treasure them whenever I myself need a little haven to ride out my own storm.
Alas, the day will come when I take her by the hand and walk her down another journey. It will be a traditional walk with ceremonial pomp and fanfare. It will last a little lesser than 15 minutes I estimate. It will be the most heartbreaking walk of my life. And when I let go and give her away, I will be counting down the seconds. Old habits die hard. It may take a little more than 12 seconds. But I will patiently wait. Because I know my hunch well, and I know her even better. And when she turns back to find me, I will be there for her. We will then smile at each other and reaffirm our connection. It is a connection that is unbreakable. It is the personal bond between a father and his daughter. It is our bond of love. Cheerz.