Several continents and maybe a universe or two have always separated my oldest daughter and me.
Thats how far were apart for as long as I can remember, probably since the fateful day I took her pacifier away because it was ruining her teeth and did so much damage that she eventually had to get braces. Im convinced shes held that against me all her life.
Is that possible? That this clash of personalities began the day Daddy took away "Pacie." Looking back, I think it probably would have been easier to manage Ford Motor Company than to raise four daughters.
We were always on opposite sides of the fence, when she was in grammar school, high school and college, and I can still remember lying in bed, praying for some form of divine intervention that would let us sit in the same room together for 15 minutes without quarreling. But that miracle didnt come. I didnt get patience and neither did she.
If that wasnt bad enough, my wife always seemed to side with our daughter, which leads me to wonder how I could have been wrong 100 percent of the time. At least I was consistent, but what else can a guy surrounded by five women possibly hope for?
So I prayed and argued and prayed and argued but didnt see any hope, except when I daydreamed about that day of liberation, when she would get married and move out. OK, forget the marriage part, how about just moving out?
That day, however, seemed to recede further and further into the future. Our second daughter landed a job teaching so she moved out and got an apartment with our third daughter, who got a job at a pricey boutique. Our fourth daughter went to college in another state; and, as you can tell by applying simple principles of mathematics, that left only one daughter, the oldest, who loved us so much she stayed at home.
There was no miracle in sight, so we endured the proverbial personality conflicts experienced by two people who look at the same object, the same issue, the same sky totally differently.
I prayed harder for patience, but patience did not come. But then, my prayers were answered, even though the answer left me wondering whether God has a sense of humor or just wanted to make me suffer more.
The daughter with whom I couldnt spend more than 10 minutes without quarreling got a new job and started taking the train with me every day to work and back. What a formula for disaster. Four hours of quality time a day.
Now we both get up at 5:30 to catch the 6:30 train. We ride to the station together. We board the train together. We sit side by side and I have to listen to her complain that I take up too much of the seat. Then, after a grueling day at work, we ride home together.
Our differences are proliferating. She doesnt like to talk in the morning. Neither do I. Instead, I try to say the rosary on the way to work, but she likes to listen to talk radio. I like to leave early, but she likes to leave even earlier.
We quibble over our starting time. We quibble when I cant get in the bathroom because shes using the hair straightener. We quibble over where to park the car. And on more than one occasion, Ive called my wife up and grumbled, "This just isnt working. We have to take separate cars."
Normally, for 25 minutes, my morning regimen consisted of novenas, litanies and prayers to get me in the frame of mind to face the real world; but now, I find myself talking about my daughters resume, her problems at work or her fantasy of moving to Chicago.
She says this carpooling helps save gas and save money for parking, so Im encouraging her to put those savings toward a nice studio apartment.
The only possible outcome of a father-daughter arrangement like this can be annihilation or reconciliation or peaceful coexistence, as they said during the Cold War, or high blood pressure followed shortly thereafter by a nervous breakdown.
Was God trying to make me a stronger man, a more patient man, a more humble man? Who can understand his inscrutable ways? Wouldnt it have been easier for him to find her a husband?
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.