So yesterday I posted a review of a Broadway play. It may have let you to wonder (if you read this blog much) why we were there. The biggest, of course, was a visit to NYU. Abbi wants to be in drama in any way. She loves the craft, the work, the ideas and improvisation. She loves good writing and wants to improve bad. It’s not been an easy decision for her. Her mother, my late wife Andrea, was very proud of her when she did her plays and performed. But Andrea was a very matter-of-fact kind of person and very, very scared of having to avoid living a certain lifestyle. She grew up with money and didn’t like when we didn’t have it.
The upbringing Andrea had – and this is just my theory – also led to her not quite understanding why anyone would live a life where money was poor, even if it made them happy. She often scoffed at me when I would comment that I’d live out of a car if Eric Clapton called and asked me to open for him. Would I have done that? Well, no. Would I have thought about it though? Yes. Absolutely. (It’s Slowhand, for God’s sake, wouldn’t YOU!) Abbi is that way. For the last year she fought her desires and listened to the ghost of her mother’s voice telling her it was better to be stable and financially rich than happy and emotionally fulfilled. It was a battle only she could fight and only she could win. Whatever her decision I was there to tell her I supported her.
Ultimately, her heart won out – that piece of her heart. I can tell there’s a part of her that still aches over siding with her own desires over her mother’s. What I told her was that her Mom’s just not here . . . she left. I could have told her otherwise, that she’s watching and guiding her. Maybe she is, but it’s Abbi’s life. If it doesn’t work out she can always go become a rocket scientist or brain surgeon.
So New York called. It wasn’t easy. I had to negotiate with the hotel to allow her to check in before I got there – Abbi left Omaha and came there on Friday. I left at Midnight and got there Saturday morning. I had to call the front desk manager, fax my DL and signature with a letter saying Abbi was allowed to check in though only 17. Abbi had to fax a copy of HER ID and signature. I had to purchase the room in advance with HER credit card.
I bought tickets for the play in advance . . . even though many people told me to hit the Times Square ticket booth day of for discount tickets. I’m glad I didn’t listen. The line was more than a block long and we had spent far too much time in queues that day.
It’s a hard thing to watch your kids grow up. I would be lying if I said “I didn’t know how much I missed them” about the kids this summer because I know just how much I did. Knowing that Abbi might choose to go to school on the opposite end of the country isn’t easy at all. It’s very difficult. But I want her to be happy. I also wanted her to go to New York because she deserved something fun for just her. She does a lot for me. More than most seventeen-year-olds would. She watches her siblings. She carries a big load. I moved them all from their home to a new house, changed Abbi’s school halfway through high school…all of that she took with grace. I know she’s tried very hard to put on a brave face but I think it was much harder on her than she wants me to believe. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think so, though. Sure, I’d love to have her closer, within driving distance so I can pop by.
I remind myself, though, it’s not about me. It’s about her – the best education we can afford, the best life for her, the best career for her and what she’s wanting to do. I could mope about saying I want her closer but that’s not fair and I don’t really feel that way. I am happy when I know she is.
But more than anything else I wanted to make this trip happen for another reason. Years ago I shot a barely-seen documentary on two runners at the Chicago Marathon. I loved the city and all the places I had been I knew Abbi would love. I came back from Chicago telling her I wanted to take her there and we’d do an Abbi/Daddy trip just the two of us. I got her hopes up and made her all excited.
I had a lot of excuses: we moved…we didn’t have the money…she got two brothers along with her sister…but the biggest was her mother didn’t want us to go. She felt left out and we got in a lot of arguments over whether we should go. Andrea had an unrealistic fear of being alone and she was more than a little co-dependent at times. In this era it was at its worst. Later she faced those fears and we were far more stable…but it was too late. When life got in the way, I just couldn’t make it happen. I never forgot that I made Abbi a promise and I broke it. I know, you can’t do everything. I have made suggestions before and not been able to do them. I’m not talking about that. This I promised her and never came through. There are few things I consider absolutes in my life, but breaking a promise to my kids – that’s absolutely not forgivable. I tell the kids I only promise something I will come through for. I’ve not broken any other promises, that I can think of. I hope not anyway. But this one always bothered me…a lot.
Abbi tried for years to make it seem she was OK. She loves her Dad, calls me “Papa” even though I never asked her to do that. She sits next to me and puts her head on my shoulder when she is feeling bad. Still…I wanted to come through for her before she was gone.
So, yes…I took the redeye. I walked miles around New York. I rode the subway like I knew what I was doing. I survived on 3 hours sleep…and it was brilliant. Abbi kept asking how I was managing to keep going and she was exhausted. The reality was…I didn’t really care if I was tired.
Abbi smiled from ear-to-ear all weekend. I’d finally come through on an old promise and it felt great.