"It's just me and you now, kiddo." This is our new reality and it is like I'm just now waking up. There have been too many incomprehensible events in my life over the last six months.
Caleb graduated from Cedarville University and then moved to Minnesota for the summer. Aleks graduated from Carmel High School and then left to be on campus at Anderson University. And Sterling... she has grown up so much this summer. I'm getting glimpses already of the young lady she will become, and I'm all too aware of how quickly her next seven years are going to pass.
I am so thankful for her. She was the third one to call me "Dad," and now she is the only one left that still sees me with childhood eyes. But oh my, how that is already changing.
I've really gotten to know her this summer. She and I took a road trip alone to see my parents at Myrtle Beach. 14 hours each way, conversations and Taylor Swift. McDonald's and holding our breath through the tunnels were great memories with a six foot stuffed unicorn riding shotgun.
Today she sat with me poolside. After four hours she was clearly bored out of her mind, and the arrival of two sisters, one a high school senior and the other a college student pushed the both of us over the edge. They spoke like California valley girls and their voices were shrill and loud. We packed up our towels and sunscreen, rapidly making our exit.
This evening was about capturing the day. It is time to make memories with this one. I drove her to the local theater and bought two tickets to see Disney's Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson. It was surprisingly good, reminding me of when my uncle Stephen took me to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when I was about Sterling's age. The universe felt good and full circle today.
After a dinner at Texas Roadhouse (gotta love those rolls), we returned to the apartment and took a late-night stroll with Dinah the dog. Sterling asked if we'd be safe. I showed her the .45 concealed on my hip. She asked me if I'd show her some self-defense moves and so we worked on how to defend and escape an attacker. She nearly broke my foot!
Afterwards we watched Hotel Transylvania and I was stunned how the relationship between Dracula and his daughter mirrored BOTH how I recently had to release Aleks, and also these tender days that I still have with Sterling. I am so filled with emotion. I am so thankful.
I'm fighting my way back into a good place. God has been faithful to me, far more than I deserve. As we were winding the night down, Sterling walked up to me and said, "Dad, I don't know what I'd do without you."
She had my full attention and my whole heart. Our eyes held a steady exchange as smiles broke over both of our faces. Finally I responded, "Sterling, I think I'd be pretty messed up without you."
This day has been such a wonderful experience. This is life. While I still sting from the transition of my two older children, I recognize the magic of this young life that still is under my roof. I am a blessed man. The two big kids are doing what they've been raised to do, but I am not yet done with Unicorn Dreams and Jungle Cruises.