Parenting

Lateness, Death, and Starbucks

“Daddy,” my daughter said, “I will never leave you.” 

I stopped in the doorway and turned, “What makes you say that?”

“Because,” she said with a fixed gaze, “You would be so sad.”

I bent down and kissed her goodbye.  Rising, I turned towards the door.  I was late and in a hurry.  I grabbed the doorknob and twisted. 

“Wait!”

“What?”

“Will we die?”

“Ok,” I said, bending down, “I love you, but I have to go to work.  Be good for mommy?”  I rose. 

“Dad,” my three-year old daughter wasn’t budging, “will—we—die?”

“Someday, yes.  But not for a long time.”  I opened the door, exasperated. 

“Then what?”

“Last question,” I commanded.

“Ok, but then what?  After we die?”

“Ask your mother,” I said, shutting the door.  I jogged to my car, jumped in, and sped away.  I needed to be at work; I needed to answer emails; I needed to teach; and I needed to finish some long-ignored paperwork.  But I also needed coffee.  So I zipped into the Starbucks near my house.  There was only one car sitting at the drive-thru.  This will be quick, I thought.

Wrong. I waited. 

The car in front of me was a fixed obstacle.  I could see the head of an elderly woman sticking out of the car’s window.  Her mouth was moving.  I rolled down my window to hear what she was saying.  “Well,” she said, “what do you have for a dollar?”

“Uh?” said the speaker box, “Not a lot.”

“But certainly you have something.” 

The speaker box was silent.  I imagined the drive-thru attendant turning to her co-worker: “Crazy wants to know what we have for a buck?”

“Like what,” the imaginary co-worker shrugged, “a lid, a plastic lid?” 

I shook my steering wheel in agitation. 

“I just don’t know,” the elderly woman said.  “Do you have any sausage?”

“Seriously?” I mumbled.

“Sure,” the speaker box said, “we’ll find you some sausage.  Just pull up to the second window.”

“Which one?”

“The second.”

“The first?”

“The second.” 

“Oh, alright,” the old woman said, driving to the assigned portal. 

I pulled forward.

Driving to work, I thought about the young, the old, and those of us between. 

I was late.  In my hurry, I had missed an opportunity to provide assurance to my daughter. 

I was late.  In my hurry, I had cursed a woman who had earned the right to ask her damn questions. 

If youth is innocent and age is wisdom, then what am I? 

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