Sometimes I just need to see my kid.
Wednesday was one of those days.
Nothing particular in either of our lives. Maybe this is common with parents of grown children, but every so often I get a yearning to spend a few hours with my daughter, Erin.
That means a drive to Southwest Florida for a dad-daughter lunch date.
Erin is in my prayers daily and on my mind a lot lately.
Hers is a familiar name to longtime Chronicle readers. I wrote many columns about Erin, from her birth to that age when publishing such things brought her hideous embarrassment.
(True story: We had an editor who one day told me to stop writing about Erin. I protested, but he insisted, saying readers don’t care about personal stuff.
That same day, we went to lunch at Cracker’s with two other reporters. As we sat at the table, a group of women walked by. One asked if I was Mike Wright, and when I said yes, she gushed:
“I love when you write about Erin! We love Erin!”
She turned to her friends. “This is Erin’s dad!”
And on it went for another minute.
The editor never said a word and I kept writing about Erin. No wonder editors loved me.)
Erin left Citrus 17 years ago, but hardly a week goes by when someone doesn’t ask how she is doing.
This is how: Erin’s 27 (whaaatt??), married and mother of a beautiful 13-month-old son with an infectious laugh, whose eyes delightfully dance in her presence. (He’s a little social media shy, so you’ll have to trust me.)
I knew this was not the week to take a Wednesday off for a drive to Naples. But after seeing my siblings and their kids in Michigan the weekend before Thanksgiving, I wanted an Erin lunch right away.
I need face-to-face time. It’s vital.
My family is large and loving. Our gatherings are legendary. I accepted, awhile back, that living in Florida I’d miss a lot of those family events. That doesn’t make the longing any less difficult.
Thing is, my siblings have their lives as I have mine. I have come to appreciate the Thanksgiving dinners, Dad birthdays and, most recently, a wedding that brings us all together for a few hours or days of intense family bonding. Those full-court press family events cling to me for months afterward.
My situation with Erin is similar. She moved to Cape Coral when her mom and I divorced. I became one of those every-other-weekend dads, where we sure had a lot of fun, but I lost out on the daily details of her growing up.
I started the lunch dates not long after Erin turned 18. Simple, periodic weekdays, taking the drive to Cape Coral where we goof off for a few hours, and I drive home on a dark interstate, happy and content.
Erin and I had one of those lunch dates when her baby was only a week old. Here was my little girl — the child who licked a hamster at age 4 to give it a bath, and yes, I wrote about it — instinctively tending to the needs of her own newborn.
How did that happen?
Deb and I have visited a few times and seen both grow. It’s what every parent wants, right? I watch my daughter be a loving mother right before my eyes.
Wednesday’s lunch was barbecue, where a delightful baby boy kept his mom and grandpa laughing and amazed.
It feeds my soul to both witness and participate in Erin’s life, even for just a few hours. God’s grace is incredible.
I know I should have spent Wednesday at Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson, researching the many challenges that our new county commission faces.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes I really need to see my kid. You get the picture.
— Bonus points (whatever that is) for recognizing my T-shirt in the photo. Here’s a hint: The possibility of anyone knowing the answer is so remote I’ll know if you got it off the internet. Enjoy your Thursday, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.