I may not remember the first time I had a beer but I will always remember and cherish the first time I had a beer with my 19-year-old daughter.
That first beer with my daughter Eilish did not take place right after she turned the legal drinking age in Ontario. It was not a planned get together that had been marked in our collective calendars and counted down. It was not a post birthday celebration. It did not come with cake and singing and a crazy party. There was no Facebook invite.
Our first beer together took place in a quiet downstairs pub almost 9 months after she turned 19.
To understand why, it is important to know that in the past 8 years, my daughter and I have not always been the closest. Her mother and I split up when she was very young and I moved out. I really tried to keep disruption to a minimum for her and my son. I stayed close by - living only 2 houses down for many years. Eventually, I sought out happiness and met a wonderful woman with whom I had 3 beautiful children with and eventually moved one city over.
In my heart of hearts, I thought in time everything would go back to normal and my older kids would get along famously with their younger sisters and we would be a great, big happy family.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t that kind of movie.
That I started a new family was hard for a 10 year old to unpack and the feeling of betrayal grew. Throughout her teenage years, the chasm between us grew and grew as we became more distant from one another often not talking for weeks or months and only seeing each other a couple times a year.
It took some time but eventually things came around. In the last couple years, we have found some reconciliation as time has begun to heal old wounds. She will occasionally reach out to me and let me know what is happening in her life. We are Facebook friends but I try to avoid looking at her page unless I really have to. And yet, meeting in person alluded us. She works full time and has a busy social life and our schedules never clicked. And then, last week as I was working late, I reached out to her to see if she wanted to grab a beer.
Amazingly she was free.
We met at a local pub that I used to frequent quite often when I used to live downtown. The beer selection was good, it was not too busy and the music was quiet. When Eilish arrived in the bar in a flutter I felt like I was being reunited with a long lost friend that I feared I would never see again.
We spent a good hour and a half playing catch up. She talked to great lengths of the guy she was dating who I told her I would like to meet one day. She spoke of her job, how excited about school and more excited about moving out on her own. When I noticed a couple of new tattoos on her arm she remarked that she had had the one of her bicep “forever, almost a year.”
In that moment, I remembered how much that girl could make me smile.
As much as she is and will always be my daughter, I recognize how much she has matured over the years and that she is indeed becoming an adult. Instead of being a person that I parent, she is now someone I can talk to as a peer, give grown-up advice and share stories. She became someone I could have a beer with.
As much as a beer doesn’t make up for many tough years, it is a chance at a new beginning. While the big 2-0 is not that far away, I do hope we get another chance soon to meet up and get to know each other again. I can wait and I will always be here.
Just remember: whenever you are free, the next round is on you.
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