I’m sitting in the lobby of the place where my daughter takes guitar lessons. I can hear her (and a half dozen other kids) playing music in one of the many rooms behind me. This is a whole new experience for me because until a few weeks ago, I’d never been here.
Claire started guitar lessons in September. It was Shawn’s idea. He bought her and Austin guitars last Christmas and desperately hoped that they would both be interested enough to learn a bit with him. But he was a self-taught player and insisted that at some point they would need formal lessons. He decided that the time for Claire was the start of 3rd grade. I was overwhelmed, as usual, when he asked me to schedule a good day for the lessons, so I told him he could only do it if he was the one to take Claire. He happily agreed and it was their time together. Even when he was sick, he’d always take her.
Once he was in the hospital, my friends took Claire to her lessons. I only began taking her a few weeks ago, and when I first showed up, the guitar teacher asked me who I was. That’s how uninvolved I had been.
In any case, once a week I sit in this lobby and answer emails or text my friends or read the New York Times. The same kids and parents come at the same time every week, and one of them is this burly-looking guy who is quiet and usually reads books or looks at his phone much of the time. He’s never really said hello to me, but he sits with his daughter each week while his son takes a lesson. His daughter is quiet too, and she is about Claire’s age. He is patient and kind to her and she likes to read and ask him questions.
Right now they are sitting 10 feet from me and what they are doing is gutting me to the core.
She’s reading on a kindle and he is looking at his phone. She’s got her head in his lap and his arm is casually slung over her body. They aren’t really doing much except existing in the space together. And it is actually painful for me to sit and watch the obvious love they have for each other.
Because right here in this place just a few months ago, Shawn sat with Claire and did the same thing. I never witnessed it, but I’m sure they did, as the guitar teacher is often late and I know that’s the sort of thing they would do together. Shawn always loved to have his kids lying all over him, and he was particularly affectionate with Claire. He loved taking her to those lessons.
Oh, how much I want to go up to this dad and tell him to treasure every moment he has with his daughter. How much I want to remind him that he’s lucky to get these 30 minutes of boredom that they spend together each week. How much I want to say to his wife, who usually meets him at the end, that she should be thanking her lucky stars to have her family intact.
Obviously, I don’t say anything, because I don’t want people to think I’m crazy. I probably wouldn’t get through a speech like this because I’d start sobbing. And then Claire would come out of her lesson and would definitely be embarrassed that her mom was crying in public again.
So I just watch him with his daughter, perfectly bored and happy. Unaware of how happy he is, because when you’re truly happy, it’s hard to really see how wonderful your life is.
I don’t know his life. I don’t know if he has problems at work or issues with his health or any other bad thing that can happen to a person or a family. I don’t even know his name. But I do know some things. He is alive. He loves his daughter. And at least once a week, he has 30 minutes when he puts his arms around her.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.