She was only eight when she first moved out from under my roof, leaving me with an emptier feeling than when, a year previously, my marriage to her mother had ended.
When a partner leaves there is sadness and emptiness, but this is sometimes leavened, if that is the right word, with an oddly sustaining self-righteous anger. When a child leaves, there is only sadness and emptiness and nothing else.
My former wife and I had an arrangement whereby the children, then aged ten and eight, could move, within reason, between our houses by mutual agreement; rather than having enforced blocks of time at each place. At first they lived with me, with regular visits and stays at their mother's. It worked as well as things can work after a divorce. A year later, in 1988, my daughter, now nine, wished to base herself at her mother's, with regular trips back to me.
So one Saturday morning, we moved her clothes and her toys and her school things and her dolls and her bicycle and herself; and that night there was just me and her older brother and the quiet house suddenly felt wrong, like too-big shoes.
(Some years later, her brother told me that because his mother had gone and then his sister followed, he had feared that one day I would go too, and that he would be left to live alone with his dog in a house that once held an entire family. Children are like that. They fear separation more than anything else.)
Ten years went by and the children grew through their teens and there were schools and choirs and laughter and tears and holidays and a million trips to concerts and friends' houses and sport events and family occasions. I had remarried and my daughter, now eighteen, moved back in and stayed for a couple of years before going overseas. When she returned, she moved in with friends close to university.
Now she has come home again. The lease ended on her apartment, she is enrolled at a new campus for more studies and she will stay with us for some time.
For the first time in my life I have three children under one roof. William, of course, already knows and loves his Much Older Sister. Now he can see her every day. Thomas will get to know her. She adores them both. In fact, she is a sister to four boys. Her mother remarried and had another child who is now ten.
It is an improvement on the day, so many years ago, when her parents separated and her world came crashing down.