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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2004

Memories of dancing with daughters waltz in with music

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By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The bouncy tune filled the headset of my portable stereo, then clocked me with a sucker punch to the soul.

A woman crooned. Fingers strummed a guitar. Voices rose and fell. And there I was again ... carried on a wave of memories to a living room ... to Monday nights after dinner ... dancing with my daughters.

What a sight we made back then. Bouncing like sizzle on a skillet, just the three of us 'cause Mrs. G. always worked late at the news factory.

We would play that song several times before we finished, doing our best to wear out the repeat button on the CD player. Holding hands, swinging around the room, crazy fools who didn't care who knew it.

How the girls loved that song. How I loved dancing with them when we played it. How distant it feels now. They were younger then and I miss that, too.

How come I didn't see this coming?

Nothing in my life prepared me for fatherhood. Every day I stumble through it like someone in dire need of a map.

But I know this: If you're not careful, life's daily grind can numb you to the experience. Nuances will go unnoticed as we slog through schedules too full of things we do more out of habit than anything else.

Damn nostalgia. The way it turns me soft inside. The singer crooned, voices rose and fell. I turned up the volume.

My little escape. My time machine.

Memories can lie, but I know those were days with less responsibility. Like afternoons without homework or a lawn to mow. Like taking an hour to sip a milk shake after daycare. Like dancing instead of washing dinner dishes.

Smiles came easier, I tell myself.

Back then, my girls still wanted someone to read to them and Dad was still the "bestest" at painting fingernails. Toes, too.

Damn nostalgia. The things I've forgotten come back when I least expect them. Reminders of greater truths, maybe. I'm not that deep, so I never know if they are or what to make of them.

But I know this, too: Hold your children tight. They grow up fast and you never know when they'll be gone. My heart aches if I think about it too much.

They're a gift, I was reminded recently. Every moment with them is precious. Don't waste them.

Scold them when you have to, but hug them later. Make them dry the dinner dishes but make them sing with you when they do. Tell them it's OK to feel goofy inside.

Sure, things change. The girls paint their own fingernails. One goes to school dances now and the other doesn't dance. They can cross the street without holding my hand if they want to.

I have no idea if other fathers feel this way; it's not the kind of thing we talk about. And I don't want advice on how to feel differently. Truth is, I don't want to feel any different. I don't want to forget.

When the song was finished and my headset silent, I tapped the repeat button one more time.

And one more after that.

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.