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 really 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 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 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. I once heard of very mature young man who began crying as he and his parents arrived to move him into a 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 15 miles to go to the university’s exit, I understood.
“Funny you should say that,” I said, “I’m getting the very same feeling.”
Woolsey is the publisher of the Times-Georgian. You can read more of his columns at leonardwoolsey.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.