Monday, September 2, 2013

The Open Door by Keith Martin

Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Keith Martin for permission to share this with my friends on this blog. And thanks to the Roanoke Time for printing it on Aug. 31, 2013. All of you who have children leaving for school know the feelings he shares.

The buttery shafts of sunlight shining through the open bedroom door startled me this morning. It’s been a while, at least eight years — on any regular basis, that is.
This morning was different. The door should be shut. It’s never open this early in the morning, sometimes not until noon.
When I built this house, my wife was pregnant with our first girl. One of the things that sold her on this plan was the elliptical transom windows in the front. It had been my intention to strike the transoms from the plan as a cost savings, but quickly learned that you cannot argue with a nesting woman, particularly if you are married to her. That was 18 years ago.
For the first few years, this was a guest room, the place where Ma Maw stayed when she came to visit, or for out-of-town friends when they came for the weekend.
It stayed a guest room for a few years after little sister was born. They slept in the same bed in the other room, preferring the comfort of each other’s company over the privacy of their own room. Those were the story-telling days. After teeth brushing and prayers, a bedtime story, a kiss on the forehead, nightlight left on and door cracked. All was well in the house.
Once the turf wars began, it was time for each little girl to have her own room. Big sister took over the guest room. It became her domain. Little sister painted her room, just to prove that she didn’t care about being left behind.
For a couple of more years, when I stepped into the hall in the morning I would see that first shaft of sunlight from that elliptical transom spilling into the hallway. Peeking in, I would quietly close the door, then do the same for her sister. A short while later, they both began to shut their doors at night.
Throughout the teenage years, the shut door meant they were home. I could open the door and see them, talk to them, fuss over clutter or just give them a hug.
The open door surprised me this morning; I’m not sure why. We took her to the university two days ago.
There is comfort in a shut door. You know she is in there, safe and secure. The shafts of sunlight were taunting me to call her to see that she was alright. To be sure that we had done the right thing by leaving her in that foreign place called college.
How could we be so stupid? Is she OK? What the hell have I done?
I shook my head to clear it and walked by the open door without looking in. I started to close it, to cut off the offending sunlight, but that didn’t seem right either, so I turned and went to the kitchen.
I contemplated this door situation all day today. Twice, I have gone in there just to reassure myself that she is OK, to see her familiar things. “It’s just college, dammit, she’ll be home in a few weeks.” The words seem hollow. I know things have changed.
She will be coming home, often at first, then less and less. In a couple of years, her sister will follow suit. It is God’s plan.
College, careers, marriage, kids. The cycle will continue. There will be good times and bad, highs and lows. Through it all, there will be love of family, because that is who and what we are.
The sunlight will continue to come through the elliptical transoms each morning, lighting the hallway with memories. I’ll leave the door open so those memories can flood the rest of the house. I’ll relish the times when the door is shut. That means she’s home.
I love you, girls. Be safe.
— Dad