IMG_5123

“I love you. Your children are wonderful. You’re doing a great job.”

My beautiful daughter, nonprofit executive, wife, mother of three, including 3-year old twin boys, dressed to the nines, looking at three 14-hour days in a row with one big event after another, looked at me with a gratitude that I’d never seen from her. And maybe surprise, I’m not sure.

She left for work then and I went into the airport where I sat in the coffee shop for an hour before my flight’s gate was posted. I was there nice and early, to be sure. It was fine. I had time to wait around. She didn’t. She’s in the thick of it. My thick is past.

And so I came home.

Tonight I’ve been thinking about what I said to her while we were standing at the curb in front of the airport while other cars lined up behind us, waiting to discharge their flyers and motor away to work or home or the beach. Impatience is pumped into the air at the airport. We all inhale it and hurry. We say only the most important and urgent things.

“I love you. Your children are wonderful. You’re doing a great job.”

When did I start saying such things? It seemed so kindhearted. That wasn’t me. I was spare. Withholding. Competitive. My compliments always seem to have an edge I don’t quite intend. Or have advice woven through, little silver threads barely discernible in the rainbow of happy colors.

Was age making me nicer? Was I becoming sweet? Was I trying to curry favor, make my daughter miss me when I was gone?

No. I was just saying what was true.

And maybe what I wish my mother had said to me. Just once. Just one perfect, hurried moment after she’d had a good visit with me and my kids and was leaving soon on a plane to go back to her home. I wish she had just looked me in the eye and said it.

“I love you. Your children are wonderful. You’re doing a great job.”

But she didn’t. So I’m saying it for her. And for me. And for my daughter.

“I love you. Your children are wonderful. You’re doing a great job.”