Fledging

by Erik Dolson

Two ducks have arrived at the pond. In years past I’ve chased them off, not wanting the mess they bring. This year I watch, wondering where they will choose to build their nest.

Tonight, my daughters and I may be having our last dinner together in this house I built 11 years ago in the middle of my divorce from their mother when they would have been about 12, maybe 13. Close enough.

They may not be feeling this as I do, and I’ve not decided if it’s fair that I share my sense of loss with them. For Kasturi, who is leaving on Friday for a new life in Portland, this is the start of her life as an adult. She never seemed as “attached” to people as her sister. I don’t doubt her love, but she’s more capable of letting go.

Sabitri is more sensitive. If the significance comes up tonight, she will shed tears. She’s the one who cried for many hours in my arms  when brought from the orphanage in the highlands of India 24 years ago. Her move will be around the beginning of June, destination as yet unknown.

But tonight, I’ll fight back tears as this moment I’ve aimed at for a long time, the fledging of my babies, arrives with a heavy load of sadness. It’s just one more tonight, I’ll tell them. You’ll be back, I’ll say. Words aimed at my own heart more than theirs. They will never be back to this house as children.

By coincidence, if there is such a thing, I’ve been talking to others recently about loss. Buddha, and Epictetus the  Greek, said suffering comes from attachment. Detachment is all well and good, and letting go in order to appreciate, but it’s sometimes hardest to let go of that which we wish not to hold.

Loss. I’d like to let go of this sense of loss. I want to see my daughters free and flying, but not have this sense of loss. I used to say that God was unfair to women, giving them maternal instinct without giving them an “off switch.” Fathers suffer, too, I find.

The ducks paddle around, seemingly content, but always moving, searching. I discovered ordinary ducks can fly under water, disappearing and popping up as far as ten feet away.

I’ve often wondered how the trauma of losing their mother five days after they were born, then the adoption and loss of their loving caregiver, and the trauma of riding down from the central highlands of India in a noisy car with huge white strangers, affected the twins.

They seem like happy, healthy adults, not too different than their peers. That they were living with their parents at age 25 is not that abnormal now, I’m told.

That neither has had a date that I know of is perhaps less normal. Did the tumult of the divorce, or that of my relationships following, cause dysfunction? Social exclusion during middle and high school? Or maybe they just don’t share everything with Dad.

K.C. has been living in her mother’s home, Sabitri in mine, for the last several months. I’d pushed to separate them, believing that their dynamic as twin sisters kept them from maturing into their separate “selves.” And they are very different.

They blossom, now. They seem to be facing life without huge fear, certainly without the damage many others have suffered. If they’re a little closed, even to each other, perhaps that’s health, not evidence of harm.

The ducks leave during the day. I don’t think there’s enough growth in the pond to feed them, let alone a brood. Spring grasses have not perked above the soil, and there’s not much cover or safety from coyotes.

After dinner tonight, K.C.will head back to her mom’s to keep preparing for Friday’s move. I told her last night she should pack up things from her bedroom here, as well. She told me she had planned to that today, since she was coming over for dinner anyway.

“Anyway.”

It’s obvious dinner tonight will be more significant for me than for her, and maybe for her sister. Their lives stretch out before them. I can easily see that at my age and given my adventures, this dinner could be our last. As they separate from each other and leave this home, I can easily believe it will be for the last time.

It will be, at least, the last time in this life as it is, as it was, as it has been.

And as much as it hurts, that’s how it must be.

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