Monday, February 14, 2011

A Man With Daughters

There's no medicine like your children.

I have a younger daughter who calls me every morning to make sure I’ve had breakfast—I have little appetite and less memory these days—and threatens to have food delivered to me if I have not. I have an older daughter who ardently wants to prepare healthy dinners for me, but a healthy cuisine to her is raw food, so thus far I decline. It’s the love that counts.

Some days you question what you are hanging around for. Then you drop into any one of your two daughters’ three “Alice’s Tea Cup” restaurants and ease past the people waiting in line to behold a room full of the cozily-seated—or a patron exiting with a copy of your published daughters’ "Alice's Tea Cup" Cookbook (HarperCollins). Some days, down but not out, you brave the cold not as well as you braved radiation en route to a daughter’s opening night, and before the day is over, you’re basking in the glow of a rave review for her—the very same Lauren Fox!—in The New York Times. And, on some dark days, cerebrally scalped and emotionally threadbare, you ask yourself: is it worth it? And then your grandchildren burst through the door.

I vividly remember my mother, holding and rocking our firstborn, looking up at me as I entered the room and, with a beatific half-smile on her lips, telling me, “They say, ‘Your children’s children are twice your children.’” I don’t know who “they” are: I’ve never been able to find the saying or the source of it. But, for the first time I, a young father, came as close to understanding what the hitherto inexplicable (to me) ecstasy of grandparenthood was as I could ever come—until now.

I’ve learned what keeps us going is wanting to see how it all comes out. I’m beginning to see it. It’s a given and a gift that my wife is my best friend, but our daughters’ metamorphosis from children I blissfully squired around town to my two unconditional best friends was magical. The full measure of it is that there is nothing we can’t say to each other; we unwittingly shock others. It isn’t just love that conquers all, it’s love and respect, and it flows in both directions.

How it all comes out. I know what my youngest daughter Haley is going to be—she became it. She would have made a wonderful film director, but she wanted more to become a great mother and she became one of the best. Best of all, her children know it.

Lauren had to do it the hard way, the long, winding way—like everything else she’s done, in her own time. But her time is now. (And what timely medicine for me!)

A friend who hadn’t seen her since she was mugged and injured last June called me after he’d seen her show to say how distressed he was during it. The character Lauren created in “Hillbilly Women” had a crooked mouth and unevenly hunched shoulders and she maintained those distorting physical effects without let-up. She even took her first bow in character, so it wasn’t until her second bow—when she came out as herself, broad smile and relaxed body posture—that he was assured all was right in the Fox world.

For sure, what keeps us going is wanting to see how it all comes out. All is, or presently seems, right again.

When Henry Kissinger tried to fend off then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s entreaties with, “I’m an American first, Secretary of State second, and a Jew third,” she responded, “That’s all right. Here we read from right to left.” My answer is “I am a man with daughters.”