Tears of ReliefbyWFEATHER©
I had last briefly seen her in early October, when I had been in the area for a business trip and taken her out to lunch. Now, to have her in my presence again filled me with joy, for my daughter had come home from college for the holiday break, her presence dispelling the emptiness which typically filled the house.
As we date dinner, I gazed upon her fondly. She reminded me so much of her mother: a similar frame, a nearly identical facial structure, the long fingers from years of playing piano, the expressive eyes...
It was the latter which concerned me a little. Like her mother, her eyes were full of unending love, providing a window into her heart. But this time, there was also a hint of uncertainty, a trace of fear.
Setting down my fork, I reached across the table to grasp her hand. "It's definitely good to have you home again, baby," I said softly. She mirrored my smile and nodded subtly.
There was indeed something which troubled her, but this was not the time to ask about it.
That night, as we strolled through the snowy neighborhood and admired the holiday lights, the uncertainty and the fear simmered within her, and I could sense it keenly. It almost seemed as if her being home for the holidays was an unbearable stress upon her, and following her fifth year of pre-med studies, the last thing she needed while she was here was stress.
I sat on the sofa sipping coffee and reading the Sunday newspaper while listening to some of my favorite Enya songs. Yet in the back of my mind, my daughter lingered, the sense of uncertainty and especially the sense of fear plaguing me.
When she finally descended the stairs, she seemed to still be surrounded by an atmosphere of gloominess, of distress.
"Daddy..." she began as she approached me. I set the newspaper on the coffee table and she sat beside me, leaning into my shoulder. I draped an arm across her shoulders, just like I had done with her countless times as she had grown up, and she sighed into my neck.
"Something's been troubling you, baby," I finally noted aloud. "What is it? What can I do to help?"
She shook her head upon my shoulder. "You can't help," she said quietly. "But..."
I simply gave her the time she needed. Perhaps ten minutes passed and neither of us moved. Only Enya's voice and music broke the silence.
"Promise me you won't be mad, Daddy."
That startled me, and instantly, various scenarios filled my mind... She had been arrested and was expected to report to a court in New Jersey in a few days. She had recently become pregnant. She had totaled her car and had not yet told me. She had killed someone. She had been diagnosed with a fatal illness...
"I can't promise that," I responded, "but I can promise that my love for you will never change."
Another long silence passed between us, with Enya once again providing the buffer.
"I'm a lesbian, Daddy."
While unexpected, that statement filled me with relief.
"So? Are you happy and comfortable with that? Do you believe that being a lesbian is right for you?"
She simply nodded upon my shoulder.
"Then that's all that matters, isn't it?" I gave her a gentle squeeze. "I could care less if you like someone named Jonathan or Erika or Mohammed or Noriko or Juan or Céline. All I care about is that you're happy and that whoever you decide to share your life with is someone who truly loves you and can genuinely make you happy."
The tension in her body lessened, and she softened against me. She kissed my neck, but then I felt a tear anoint my shoulder.
"There's no need to cry," I assured her. "This changes nothing between us. We are still father and daughter. We're still bonded by blood. And you still always have a place in this house and in my life."
"I just didn't think you'd ever understand," she said between sniffles. "So few people do..."
The tears of relief truly began to flow as "Watermark" softly played appropriately in the background. I held my daughter close, rocking her gently, kissing the top of her head.
Eventually, the tears lessened, then ceased. Raising her head from my shoulder, she looked deep into my eyes, her own eyes still wavering from welled-up tears. "I want you to meet Yumiko," she announced. "Just say it, and she can be here tomorrow night."
I smiled. "Do it."
"Done," she replied with a slight smile. "The plane tickets were bought several weeks ago."
I hugged her, laughing softly into her ear, and her laughter joined mine. Always thinking ahead, she truly was my beloved daughter.