Gasping My Way Through Fatherhood

Posted March 14, 2012 by jimhigley

I’m excited to be on faculty at this years Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. I’m also proud to have been named a finalist in the bi-annual  Erma Bombeck Writing Competition – highlighting some of the best writing around the globe. I hope you enjoy my entry.

I’m a world-class gasper. And for that, you can thank my daughter.

My inaugural gasp—because of her—came the day after she was born. It happened as I was looking through the viewing window in the hospital nursery. I was a big-eyed dad scanning the room for the one that was his.

“Not mine,” I said to myself as my eyes slowly moved right-to-left. “That’s not mine, either.”

Then I saw a clear, plastic bassinet with a sleeping, curly-haired little girl swaddled in pink. The card above her head shared my last name. Handwritten in big, capital letters.

And I gasped.

Girls were a foreign language to me. I was raised in a family of boys. All boys and nothing but boys. That gasp masked a spectrum of ricocheting emotions—excitement, fear, doubt, uncertainty, elation. And mostly, awe. Were I to ever find myself standing at the start line of the galaxy, gazing out into the vast, endless unknown ahead of me, I think I’d have the exact, same gasp.

My most recent gasp took place today at our local hair salon. Perhaps the people who work there are accustomed to gasping. Gasps over botched haircuts. Gasps over spectacularly coiffed hair. They must hear gasps all the time. My gasp, however, was for something quite different.

Tonight is prom. And my daughter asked me to stop by during her hair appointment to check out her updo. Whatever that is. So, I arrived at the hair salon about 15 minutes after her appointment time and was told by the teenage girl at the front desk to feel free to meander into the salon to find my daughter.

Once again I was the dad scanning a room looking for a little girl.

“Dad,” I heard from her familiar voice. “Dad, I’m right behind you.”

I turned and saw my daughter’s brilliant eyes looking into a mirror. Her hair was already swirling up and around—flowing and dangling and dancing. The familiar ponytail I saw most days was gone.

And all I could do was gasp.

In the proverbial blink of an eye, 18 years had zoomed by since I stood gazing at this unfamiliar object in the hospital nursery. That little seven-pound bundle grew up. Nicely. And, she’s actually proven to be quite low-maintenance. She’s adventurous. She’s funny. She’s loyal. She’s strong. She’s resilient.

Most of all, she’s mine.

It’s crazy, isn’t it? 18 years ago this child had me gasping because I couldn’t imagine my life with her.

Now, I gasp because I can’t imagine my life without her.

  • Phil @dadvsspawn

    Where did that dust come from? I swear it must have gotten a little dusty in here!

    Well done story, and (fortunately) I can only relate the the first half. My daughters will be wondering why I’m taking more picture of them (than usual) today.

    Great post!

    • Jim Higley

      Ha! I get “dust” in my eyes with regularity! Thanks for reading!

  • Joanne Bamberger

    Our daughter isn’t quite there yet.  But at 12, I see the transformation beginning.  It makes me want to cry happy and sad tears.

    • Jim Higley

      It flies by!

  • kdwald

    Oh dear.  I don’t even want to start thinking about that! This is beautiful – and I love the gasping as a positive action full of wonder as opposed to full-on fear.

    • Jim Higley

      Thanks so much for reading. I’m all in favor of wonder-gasps……great reminders of our blessings!

  • Matt Dibble

    Ah! My wife is due with our first, a baby girl, any day now. This made me tear up!

    • Jim Higley

      Best of luck! Your life will never be the same Matt. In the most amazing way possible!

  • Julia Simens

    Rumor has it you might by gasping when she holds her own child and you see the same wide eyes reflected in both you daughter and your grandchild. Gasping always has some “awe”in it.

    • Jim Higley

      Hi Julia! I love “awe”…… one of my huge goals for my kids….to live life with a sense of awe!

  • sarahlynne of Merelymothers

    this is so beautiful. what an amazing tribute to your daughter. My son is not yet two, but the days seem to fly by. I can’t even believe what my life was like before him and now I agree; I can’t imagine life without him!

    • Jim Higley

      Boys or girls (I have both)…..they all make me GASP! Enjoy yours!

  • Chad Nikazy

    Thanks for sharing this with me Jim! I can’t think about my girls being 18 yet. I’m having enough trouble seeing my oldest turn 8. ha.

    • Jim Higley

      Hold on to your hat, pal. 18 will be here before you know it!