Emily, Max and Father Time: love you all

Maxwell Honey, front-yard troubadour

Maxwell Honey, front-yard troubadour

Emily Hamilton-Honey, smart professor

Emily Hamilton-Honey, smart professor

So I recently looked up my daughter on the website of State University of New York-Canton, the upstate New York school where she teaches. I wanted to see if she had a photo of herself in the faculty listing yet.
Yep, there she was: Emily Hamilton-Honey, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and humanities. She looks very professional, confident and, dare I say it, smart. She should be, with all those universities and degrees listed next to her.
Yet as I look at the picture of this very professional and smart woman, I can’t put out of mind another photo. This one shows her also very confident, smart and cheerful as you please. But in this photo she is about 2 years old, with a pink bow in her hair and big round glasses framing her twinkling eyes. She is utterly darling.
Would Dr. Emily Hamilton-Honey be embarrassed by her dear old dad swooning over her 2-year-old portrait in this way? Perhaps. But sorry Emily, this is how it goes. When you are a parent, the child in your child never quite goes away, no matter how hard you try to see the actual adult.
Emily turns 34 today, Thursday, Nov. 13, the same day of the week she came into this world at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital a little after 6 p.m. The 13 doesn’t bother me. What I am wrestling with right now is that first number. There’s nothing wrong with the number known as 34. I just can’t put it next to my first child and make any sense of it.
Same with my son, Max, who recently turned 27. That number is also wrong.
Max in my mind’s eye is still about 5, running across the living room and tackling me full force. His rugged little body knocks me over from the impact but I am able to wrestle him to the floor, where I proceed to tickle him mercilessly. Emily, 12, piles laughing onto the fray, but I am able to contain her as well with my free arm. We go on like this for a while, grappling and tickling and laughing.
Nothing else ever felt quite as glorious.
Now come on Dad, wipe away those tears. It doesn’t do to live in the past. Your children are grown and healthy and happy. That is the way it’s supposed to be. You want them to be happy adults. That’s how being a parent works.
Besides, if you tried to wrestle Max today he would kick your, ahem, behind. You’ve seen him throw larger adults than you to the floor in aikido demonstrations. Plus let’s face it, my tickling and grappling strength isn’t what it once was. This too is how it’s supposed to be.
But forgive me, Max and Emily, if I tear up occasionally over those floor-wrestling days. It doesn’t mean I want to turn back the clock. It just means those times were precious, and I do miss them.
We still have our precious times, of course, just not the same kind or as often. It is 613 miles from my door to Emily’s door, too far to see her more than once or twice a year. And though Max lives just a few miles away, the rhythms of his life and mine rarely coincide. Sometimes the easiest way to see him is to go to the restaurant where he works.
Now I know how Mom felt when I would come in the door at the family homestead in Williamston. Her face would light up like a Christmas tree and she would give me a big kiss. Dad would give me a strong hug. I’m sure they both saw, behind my ever-maturing adult mug, the 8-year-old kid who used to throw tennis balls against the barn roof and mysteriously disappear when it came time to pull weeds.
In this way, I recognize that Emily publishes articles, gives talks at academic conferences and lectures college students. I grasp that Max has a working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, teaches martial arts and plays a mean guitar. I acknowledge they are grown-up people.
But I will always envision Max playing Scott Joplin at a school assembly and striking out batters in Little League. I will always see Emily twirling around the house to “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel and singing the Disney Pocahontas song, “Colors of the Wind,” in a church talent show.
And I suppose I will always tear up thinking about tickling the two of them on the living-room floor. That too, apparently, is how it’s supposed to be.

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7 Responses to Emily, Max and Father Time: love you all

  1. Carolyn Heines says:

    Beautiful, Charley. Tearing up myself.

  2. Emily Hamilton-Honey says:

    Dad, this is so beautiful. And I am still your little girl as well as your grown-up daughter. Love you. 🙂

    • soulmailing says:

      Such precious times you gave us as you were growing up Em. I loved reading the Fox books to you and Dr. DeSoto. Still miss those days but cherish who you are now. You’re doing great! 🙂
      Love you, dad

  3. Beautiful testament to two kids who were fortunate enough to have you as a Dad, Charley. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Your Dad was amazing. You’re an amazing man. And your grown up kids are a reflection of their upbringing…smart, witty and talented. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen Emily. Hopefully, I’ll be able to see her smile someday soon when she visits.

  4. Judith Morcom says:

    I read this as I was already in deep thought of my 1st. born who I rarely see in far away California. I too see and remember my grown up kids as little tykes who put many smiles on my face and made me proud. I so enjoyed your heartfelt write. Thankyou Charley.

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