Not All Distances Measured Alike

Sometimes distance isn’t measured in miles.

Last week my wife and I found ourselves driving down the interstate on the way to visiting a potential college for our 17-year old daughter. While the odometer kept a careful tally of the miles driven, my wife was measuring something very real, yet invisible to the eye.

“I know this is her decision,” my wife said, “but this is too far from home.”

Our daughter slept quietly in the back seat of our SUV – much like she’d done for years before time required her to add a slight curl to her legs in order to rest comfortably across the back seat.

I looked down at the odometer and then glanced over to the small clock on the dashboard. While my mind did a mathematical calculation, my wife found herself tuned into a completely different formula altogether – a formula only a parent can feel.

Her words settling into me, I reached over to her, our hands touching. Instantly I began to feel her emotions flow though me, her words awaking emotions of mine right below the surface.

In a flash, I understood where her measurement was rooted: in her heart.

While I was initially calculating how many hours it might take me to drive across the state if our daughter found her car with a dead battery in the middle of the night, my wife’s emotions were plugged into a completely different wavelength. Mothers, it seems, seem to carry a ‘sixth-sense’ most of us fathers seem to keep repressed or on a very short leash.

Suddenly I pictured a late night call with tears on the other end of the call. The situation could be anything, but I know inside of most men is a soft spot for their daughters which awakens a sense of urgency like we’ve never felt before. And to us, being able to act on this somewhat new feeling is deeply ingrained in our DNA. And in these moments, the urge to protect or comfort will override any logic or what little common sense we might possess.

With these strange emotions coming to the surface, I turned to look at my wife.

When you’ve lived with someone for three decades you learn to read the unspoken language you’ve forged together over the years.

Without a word, her eyes told me volumes.

While the odometer displayed hundreds of miles behind us that day, I knew there was something much different in play at the moment.

Your child heading off to college is traumatic and highly emotional for all involved. A friend once told me about a how their son, a very mature young man, began crying as they arrived to move him into his freshman dorm. High emotions, generally relegated to parents, apparently are spread equally around.

My fingers, intertwined with those of my wife, gently squeezed as we looked at each other.

With only fifteen miles to go to the university’s exit, I understood.

“Funny you should say that,” I said, “I’m getting the very same feeling.”

– 30 –


2 thoughts on “Not All Distances Measured Alike

  1. Some years ago, my youngest daughter called me at work from her college apartment. She was crying. Her heart was broken because she and her boyfriend had broken up. She was 100 miles away, but in that moment she was as far from me as the moon, for I could no put my arms around her, hug her tight like when she was a little girl, and tell her it would be all right.
    Too far indeed. I know just what you mean.
    It’s tough being a parent.

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