Archived Story

Saying good-bye to baby girl

Published 9:02am Saturday, October 20, 2012

My baby girl drove away today.

She’s left before, going to Tuscaloosa for four years of higher education and taking a number of extended trips, even several overseas.

But this time is different.

Every time Riley Frances left there was a planned return, a round-trip ticket, even if there were months between travel times.

Today she left on a one-way ticket to Jackson Hole, Wyo.

And it feels different.

It’s funny how knowledge affects you.

Although sometimes I think differently, my Brittney, Snoopy, can’t understand English. He doesn’t know where I’m going or when I’m coming back. Every time I climb into my truck, he gives me that deadpan stare, like he’s sure I’m taking a one-way ticket out of his life. And when I return, he leaps up from his waiting place in the yard, runs a quick patrol around the perimeter of our property and meets me, his bob-tail wagging 120 times a minute and eyes bright and full of joy, standing tall outside my truck, before I can get the door open. When we walk together into my house, Snoop often picks up a magazine off the coffee table or grabs a pair of socks out of the laundry and, making a soft, happy, whining noise, presents me with a welcome-home gift that’s all about how happy he is to see me.

When Riley Frances announced she was moving to Jackson Hole – a wonderful place by the way – I bet my wife Mary Lyman and I met her announcement with that same deadpan dog stare.

Mary Lyman said when our son Christopher left for a year’s travels, she went into a funk that colored every part of her life until she realized that it was separation anxiety. That realization snapped her out of what she now calls “clinical depression,” and her eyes got bright again shortly after.

This time, she took more drastic action.

Earlier this week Mary Lyman announced that she was going to help Riley Frances move into her new house and meet her new roommates.

So Friday afternoon I met my two girls in Riley Frances’ packed-to-the-roof SUV in the empty Big B parking area, where highways 22 and 280 join, for a last round of hugs and kisses. Before I got there, I went by Aliant’s ATM and drained my reserve account, slipping Riley Frances a bunch of folded 20 dollar bills with the idea that some unknown bank in Jackson Hole would soon have a deposit that would serve as her emergency fund in Wyoming. We shot a few father-and-daughter photos by the highway and then the two most important girls in my life drove west.

Now I’m left in a quiet house, with the too-loud knowledge that next week one of my girls will return home on a one-way flight from Wyoming.

And the other won’t.

They haven’t even crossed the state line yet, and I’m already looking forward to a time when I can make Riley Frances a welcome-home dinner to celebrate being together. When that day comes, I’m sure my heart will beating 120 times a minute and my eyes will be bright and full of joy again.

Boone is publisher for The Outlook.