One would think I’d be ready for this. My son graduated from high school years ago, went to college and has made his own life. But at some point – I’m not sure when – the years began to gain speed, and I have felt like a skier plunging downhill, barely in control, always at the mercy of gravity.

Now my daughter, Alexandra, has finished her high school career and moved on to a bigger world, and I feel like a man awakening from a dream. It has been a marvelous dream of sunlight and smiling faces, and tears that dissolved into more smiles as we weathered the tribulations that come with the daily life of a family.

But today, a rainy Thursday in early June, I am awake to a world that insists upon its own way, that stares me down and says, “You knew this time would come. Why aren’t you prepared?” I have no answer – only a dreadful uncertainty and an abiding resentment of calendars and clocks.

She goes about the business of the graduating senior – seeing friends, buying a dress for her party, attending marching practice – but when I look at her, I sense she feels some of the anxiety her mother and I feel.

Here is our girl, God’s gift to us, who unwittingly has made me a more compassionate and patient man than I would have been without her, who suddenly, because of some inane social ritual, must leave us soon, disrupting the dreamlike pattern of days and nights that we have known for 18 years.

This fall, she will go to New York University, and I find new things to worry about. Will the city be overwhelming for a girl from Maine? Will she like her roommates? And most nagging: Will she be safe?

I know she has considered these questions. After all, she is smarter than I am; she knows things I have forgotten. She knows the best way to live in a world fraught with risk is to dive in, go to New York and become the young woman she is destined to be.

I want to encourage her, but the father in me today is weak; he’s the one inclined to say, “Why not live at home for a couple more years, take online classes, work part-time?” But the world that waits will not tolerate this. I might as well say, “Can’t you go back to kindergarten and start over again?” Like her beloved Madeline and American Girl dolls, those kinds of thoughts must be put in the closet for good.

Time will bring acceptance, adjustment. Our lives will change (they are changing already), and love will prevail. In the coming days, at various ceremonies, we will simply walk where they tell us to, sit where they make us sit; it is all prelude to a new way of life. But today, and for a while longer, she’s my little girl. To me, she has never needed to be anything more than that.

— Special to the Telegram