Thanks for the Roller skates

“Thanks for the roller skates”, she said as she climbed on the train back to school. I smiled to myself, knowing that I had given her something valuable.

I tried to remember back to my 16th birthday. My life wasn’t particularly happy at that time. Birthdays always came with some vague hope of something special happening, some unexpected gift that would make everything all right. They were always followed by a sense of disappointment. When I was 16, the tensions around the house had only gotten worse. My parents had separated. My older brothers had set off in hopes of finding themselves, and I was home, trying to care for my mother and spending too much time arguing with my sister.

Mairead, my eldest daughter was off at school on her 16th birthday. She came home for vacation while I was on the road and I ended up only getting a little time to spend with her. She has always been outwardly appreciative of the gifts she received and I’m sure she said thanks for various tangible objects she had received, but this was different.

As we got ready to head off to the train station, she fought with her sister. Her sister wanted more attention than Mairead was able to give. How well I knew that feeling. Sometimes it seems like that sums up my whole life. She was sitting on the couch next to me and I talked about some of the things that I had gone through during my divorce.

As I tried to put my life back together, or perhaps more accurately, hold together the various shattered pieces of my former life, I found I needed to find new things to do. I needed to get out, to get some exercise.

A friend had given me a used pair of roller blades. I went down to the local park and would skate around the circuit. I would skate hard and fast for short distances, and then be winded. I would rest, frustrated that I couldn’t skate longer, and then repeat the cycle.

I realized that this was emblematic of so much of the rest of my life. I would throw myself into whatever I was doing, burnout, get frustrated, lick my wounds and then throw myself back into the fray. When would I ever learn how to pace myself?

So, as Mairead struggled with how to do everything she wants to do, I told her about my roller skating experience. Will she do any better at learning how to pace herself? I don’t know. I hope so. So, I didn’t really give her roller skates. Maybe I have managed to give her something more important.

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