“Dad, want to see the project I made today? It got an A+,” said bright-eyed first grader Ella Anderson to her dad. “Wow, that sounds great… but later, honey, I have an email to send,” he replied, engrossed in his computer screen, not even glancing up. So Ella said, “That’s great,” and set her project down and waited, and waited, and waited, but he never looked up, not once.
“Dad, my math teacher says that I’m really doing a lot better! Look I got an A on the last test, wanna see?” Ella asked, now a newly double digit aged fourth grader. “Great, sweetie, but you’re going to have to wait. Larry from work just called. This is important,” he said. His eyes briefly left the computer screen, as he picked up his phone to take the call. So Ella set her test down on the table and left, saying, “I’ll wait.”
Ella, now a teenager in middle school, said smiling hopefully, “Dad, I got an A+ on the history paper,” but received no response. “Oh, and want to see the painting I made in Art today? It’s of me and you- remember that one time at the beach? I thought you would like it,” she included, trying again to catch his attention. “Sounds great, just give me a minute, something from work just popped up,” he replied, tablet in his lap. So she left it there on the desk, now cluttered with paintings, projects, and assignments. As she left to go upstairs, she said, “Give you just a minute… sounds great,” in a tone that didn’t sound great at all.
“Dad, the school play is tomorrow. The one I have the lead in, remember? You’ll be there right?”, Ella, now a high schooler with big plans spoke to her dad, invite in hand, with a faltering smile on her face. “The play…” Minutes passed. “Yeah. Of course, just five more minutes here, honey. I have to make an important work call. Then we can talk. You understand, right?” her dad said to her; his fingers busily pushing the numbers on the bright screen, he didn’t look up. So she left the invite on his desk and told herself she believed him. Ella went back to the kitchen, muttering as she left, “Right, understand. Work more important. Of course”. However, that night at the play, her dad didn’t show. That night, she went home alone.
It was that night, the first night Ella cried, but not the last or, rather, she sobbed. She had finally caught on. Ella realized she would always be competing with a computer for her dad’s attention and love, and she stood no chance against them. After that, there were no more projects, no more papers, no more afternoon visits to her dad’s office. The sad thing was her dad didn’t even notice she had stopped. He was consumed in his work, stuck staring at his screen, ignoring the world around him, and never knowing what he was missing.
So the years passed. Ella cut her hair, dyed it black, went to places she shouldn’t have been, did things she shouldn’t have done, and got into trouble she shouldn’t have been in. She graduated high school, graduated college, and moved far away from whatever home she might have had.
By the time her dad finally looked up from the screen and opened his eyes to the world around him, the world that had passed him by. It was too late. He had let his daughter slip away, and there was no getting her back. He finally noticed the posters, paintings, and projects in his office for the first time, now dust-ridden from years of lying in wait. They were all he had left of her, nothing but an echo of what he had missed, consumed in his work, his problems, and his computer screen.
– Kaitlyn Lees, The Agnes Irwin School, Class of 2018