I know this silence – a gnawing, invasive quiet. An absence felt, creating an immense void. Suddenly, the rooms in our apartment are much bigger, the city less friendly, my life somehow emptier, less fun.
It’s the sound that’s left behind when one’s child leaves home.
There are tangible reminders of change: The empty bedroom, the bathroom shelves void of cosmetics, hair brushes and various tools of beauty and maintenance too complex for this simple male mind. But it’s the stillness that descends upon me.
There’s the empty iPod player which played my daughter’s wonderfully eclectic mix of music every minute she was around.
There’s also the knowledge that she will not walk in the door, a whirlwind of activity, emotions and expressions that seemingly changed with the hour, delighting, confounding and holding us close together while occasionally driving each other mildly insane.
Arriving in Christmas, pointed out to me that it’s been more than eight years since we lived together. There was college, then the Peace Corps, then she led her own life and I mine, with a new wife, in a new home that, quite frankly, was not hers.just before
She arrived in Phnom Penh to celebrate Christmas and stay a few weeks and she remained for five wonderful months.
She and I rode mountain bikes together, drank coffee, learned Khmer and explored this wonderful city as she found her center and built familiarity with her new haunts. We travelled to Siem Reap and rose for sunrise at; headed to Kep for weekends at Jasmine Valley, incredible seafood at the Kep Market and hysterical motorbike lessons along dusty roads. One of them – where she hit a rut in the road and flipped her bike in a nighttime ride back to Jasmine Valley – will forever be known as Kirsty Alley to us.
I taught her what I know of Cambodia and then she did what she has so often done with me: she turned the tables and taught me a thing or two.
Life with a child who has somehow become very grown up is different than fostering a relationship with a developing teenager or young adult. The die long cast, her attitudes, passions and lifestyle are not subjects of discussion, not vulnerable to molding.
More than father and daughter, we are dear friends who know each others’ fears, foibles, nuances and peccadilloes. We have 26 years’ experience with one another and we like what we see.
We have a lot in common. Our love of life, music, people, good food and special places. Our love of each other, but equally of our independence. While we are together we live parallel existences: never together, never apart. We breathe the same air, share the same space, but we live our lives as separate equals.
And now, as I sit in our apartment, alone after dropping her off at the airport to pursue her love of travel – this time to Bangkok first, and then to India for three months – I miss her desperately.
Our long talks on the balcony – sipping wine, gulping water or just revelling in the sunset over Phnom Penh – will always be among my most precious memories of this incredible time together. And while the plan is for her to return to Phnom Penh in a few months, I am under no illusions that I will be able to repeat this wonderful spell with a human being about whom I care so deeply.
It’s back toand me, a blessing and a gift in itself.
But right now there’s just this silence, and it’s an ugly intrusion upon a home which, until Kirsty left, had felt so much more alive.