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She will always be daddy's little girl
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I’ve had a few titles in my lifetime, but the one I’ve had for the past 21 years is the one I like best: Daddy.

It was 21 years ago this week that a baby girl made her debut in Gainesville. It seems like 21 minutes ago.

Along the way, I married for a second time and brought three additional offspring into my life. I have seen them all reach and surpass the age of 21. But now, the youngest, the baby is turning 21 and it gives me reason to pause and take stock for a moment.

There was a television commercial a couple of years ago where a father was sending his teenage daughter off for the first time behind the wheel of a car. The girl, in her father’s eyes, is about 5.

I think that’s what happens. We watch a person grow and learn from the time they are born. For some reason, I want to suspend time at about age 5 or 6 with frilly dresses and full measures of innocence and cuteness.

I still want her to look both ways when she crosses the street, to say "please" and "thank you" and to be nice to older folks.

Now, the worries are different. She is two years away from finishing college. I have seen how hard it is for young college graduates to get a job and I think about that.

Relationships are much more serious than at age 5. I’ve seen the aftermath of a broken heart and it is not pretty.

I am 30 years older than my baby girl and I’ve been through some peaks and valleys in that time. I’d like to be able to guide her around those valleys, especially the ones that left me tattered and bruised. But growing up is not always going to be a smooth road and it is that rugged part that shapes us.

My dad died when I was 24, and I have longed for his wisdom and counsel. I hope that I will be there much longer for her and the foundation she has already been given can sustain her as she begins this venture into adulthood.

I have already started to see her emerge from the dark side of the moon that begins around 12 or 13. That’s the time that your children become convinced that parents are from another planet and they certainly know more than mom or dad.

But the baby is not a baby anymore. She is a beautiful young woman and has a lot of poise and savvy. I’m proud of her and the things she has accomplished on her own.

I know people who have avoided having children because of the uncertainty of the world and fear for the own abilities to be parents. I’m not in that crowd, although I made a lot of mistakes and regret that I wasn’t there for her daily. I commend her mother and stepfather for their work to shape her life.

So, Ashton Elizabeth Blackwood, I pray for your continued success and know that you will prosper and succeed at whatever you do. I hope that you will find happiness in life and grow in the faith that has anchored you thus far.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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