The Broadway blockbuster hit song, “Sunrise, Sunset,” has been around about as long as me. Its lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, recalled that everyone he tested it out on for the first time, immediately wept. That was how he knew he really had something. To be familiar with it, you wouldn’t have had to attend the play or the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Countless famous and infamous singers have covered it…including the cringy performances many of us have politely endured over the years at quite a few weddings. Its overuse made it something of a joke’s punchline. But if you give it a fresh listen, you will hear why it was so popular, and why it endures. It really does resonate with something archetypical in the human experience. In the play, the main characters Tevye and Golde sing it as a duet at the wedding of their eldest daughter, “Tzeitel.” It captures the characteristic thoughts of parents who can’t believe their daughter or son has grown up.
Well, today at 10:50 AM, the world found out that our Tzeitel(Annalise) is now officially engaged to be married! Unlike Tevye, I don’t think in songs. I think in stories. After the news, while taking our dog for a walk in the field behind our house, I looked up at the second story window that gave our little girl, Annalise, a bedtime view. My goodnight rituals with herfrequently included a Nineteenth Century fantasy that she was looking across a pasture at our nearest prairie neighbor’s place a mile away, and how tomorrow, maybe Annalise would ride her horse across that expanse to go visit. Is this the little girl I carried?
In my post-engagement-announcement free association, that twenty year old vignette gave way to another one deeper down in the archives. On our double jogging stroller rides, Annaliseand her brother would give me subject titles. It was my job to weave a story out of them. A “telephone pole” became the tale of a sad tree stripped of his branches, bark, and roots, removed from his forest family, saddled with the task of holding up heavy wires all day and night, putting up with the loquacious, gossipyflock of birds. Don’t worry, there was a happy ending of prayers heard, and forest life restored. I don’t remember growing older. When did she?
Jogging stroller wheels have a way of transforming into car wheels and a driver’s license. The law school student of today was presaged by the tenacious adolescent lawyer of yesterday that vigorously argued her many cases before the bench of parental approval. Many times, it was hard to know if I was the judge or defense attorney. Caught up in the righteousness of her client’s case (her own case for an overnight, her case for an unchaperoned outing, etc…, etc…, etc….), sometimes her enthusiasm would take her arguments to such creative heights, that even she had to pause and chuckle. For example, there was the time when she compared my repressive ways with a certain mustachioed Twentieth Century dictator/mass-murderer. When did she get to be a beauty? When did she grow to be so tall?
It has not escaped our notice that this week’s tectonic plate shaking moment came just days after another piece of news announcing that somehow seedlings have a way of turning into sunflowers. Our little Briedle (Tevye and Golde’s youngest daughter) just became an adult of eighteen years, and her brother (born on the same day five years earlier), has notched his twenty-third trip around the sun.
Last Sunday, I posted an article reflecting upon the value of wrestling with the ubiquitous experience of impermanence. This week, in light of the momentous project that Annalise and Matt are launching, and the projects that John Harry and Lizzie will one day meet up with, I am longing to reflect some advice, or wisdom as food for the happy and tearful journeys ahead.
And yet, I am noticing that, suddenly, the keyboard that has tapped out hundreds of articles won’t yield to my touch. The counselor who has sat across from a thousand or more couples absorbing, discerning, and unsnagging falls silent. A lifetime yawns before them, and beckons my precious daughter and her very substantial future husband to meet a destiny that will be somewhat chosen, but mostly given.
Like Tevya, and every father worthy of the that title, I must yield to the truth contained in an overplayed song. The days of advice giving are mostly past. Now they must learn from one another. Day by day.
Matt, I could not have constructed a better husband for my daughter. Annalise, you are all that I ever dreamed of and more. I love you both with my whole heart!
To my gracious readers, thanks for your patience in allowing me this moment of indulgence.