I picked Aviva and Pearl up from their dad’s house on Sunday, arriving a few minutes before 4:00 and standing on the edge of their kitchen for a few minutes while the girls shuttled around gathering their things. They’d just returned from a week’s vacation with him, my parents, and my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew.
We’d schlepped their things and had managed to cram it all into the small trunk of my trusty Toyota Scion. Somewhere between North Amherst and Big Y, where we were going to get groceries for the week, Pearl, who’s almost ten, started talking about “dads.”
It started when she said I should come on a beach vacation with them again, and I told her I’d like that. Maybe next year, though it’s impossible to predict whether my wife, Mani, will be able to travel, due to chronic illness – among many other factors.
This got her going on how fun “dads” are. “Dads,” for example, “are adventurous and like to do things like jump off cliffs.”
“Pearl!” Aviva, being true to both her personality and current stage of adolescence, shouted from the passenger seat. “You can’t just say ‘dads' without saying which dads you mean!”
Pearl considered this and narrowed “dads” down to three actual dads in her life: her own, her doting and athletic uncle, and a family friend who’d joined them and gone cliff-jumping at a beach known for its caves and decent-sized waves. “Dads like to get up at 6:00am to do something, not just stay at home and read a book.”
Seriously? I was thinking. I just stay at home and read books? I’d totally jump off a cliff with this kid!
In the spirit of their re-entry — we had not been together for a week, a long stretch, and I’d been looking forward to their return — I was trying to be super easy going and really did not want to feel defensive, though truth be told my ego was clambering to have its say. I went so far as to make light mention that I may be a lot more adventurous than Pearl seems to think, but that life has kept me closer to home over the past few years for lots of reasons. I left it at that.
Finally, as we were getting out the car and walking towards the grocery store entrance, I realized I had a simple question. And I decided to ask it with genuine curiosity.
“Pearlie, if ‘dads’ are good for adventures, what am I good for?”
She thought for a quick minute before responding.
“You’re good for… comfort.”
As I told Mani later that evening: if that’s what she knows she can count on me for, I’ll take it, without complaint. I have a feeling plenty of cliffs await — and she can be damn sure I’ll there all the times she’s ready to jump, offering whatever comfort I can.