She was 11 months when she let go of his hand for the first time.
She walked on her own for the first time and
he used both his hands to clap happily.
She was 5 when she let go of his hand for the second time.
She crossed the street on her own for the first time and
he kept both his hands in his pockets as he was ordered to.
She was 8 when she let go of his hand for the third time.
She went off on her own in the crowded exhibition grounds and
he wrung his hands in agony while running around shouting her name.
She was 11 when she let go of his hand for the fourth time.
She was meeting her friends at the mall and
didn’t want them to see her clutching her father’s hand and
he was only permitted to wave one hand goodbye.
She was 13 when she let go of his hand for the fifth time.
She was off to her first after-graduation party and
he used his hands to hold her for a moment while reminding her not to drink.
She was 16 when she let go of his hand for the sixth time.
She was off to her first prom and
he used his hands to click as many photos of the day as possible.
She was 18 when she let go of his hand for the seventh time.
She was off to college, living away from him for the first time and
he used his hands to carry all her boxes, settle the new mattress and fix the window in her dorm room.
She was 20 when she let go of his hand for the eighth time.
She was picking up her boyfriend at the airport when he came to visit her over the summer and
he shook the fellow’s hand with a firm grip and tried to convey all his fatherly bluster through that one handshake.
She was 22 when she let go of his hand for the ninth time.
She was working hard at her first job, even forgoing lunch midway with her father when her boss called that afternoon; and
he held his hands, firmly gripping the knife and the fork, even as they threatened to drop in his disappointment.
She was 26 when she let go of his hand for the tenth time.
She was getting married to the man of her dreams and
he used his hands to give her away with all the pride as the father of the bride, though,
in his deepest of hearts he wanted to take her close and never let her go.
But, he did let go each time,
feeling happy and at the same time sad, every time he had to,
because he was her father and she was his daughter, then,
turned away to hide his tears.
Now she’s 46 and he’s grown old and grey.
His hands weren’t as strong as they once were nor were his steps so sure.
So, now, she held his hand when he had to walk;
when he had to cross the street; and
when he wanted to click pictures of his granddaughter’s 16th birthday.
She held his hand until that moment on his granddaughter’s 16th birthday, when
he collapsed in the kitchen and had to be rushed to the hospital.
She held his hand until that moment when he briefly opened his eyes and smiled at her from the hospital bed.
Because she was the daughter and he was the father, she didn’t turn away when the tears fell.
Because he was the father and she was the daughter, he used his hands to take her hand and
pat it in an attempt to comfort her.
She held his hand until that moment when
his eyes closed again; and
at that moment,
for the first time in her life,
for the first time in his life,
the father let go of the daughter’s hand.