I work at the University of N*rth Carlina at Chapel Hill.

If I had gone to work today I’d still be there now, hashing out methods for working with the news media on the story about the tremendous young woman, a student, and was killed yesterday.

Instead, I stayed home. Our babysitter, who’s also a UNC student, started spring break early. Trish was asked to work, so I cashed in a vacation day to spend time with Ella. I’m so glad I did. We slept late, then played with the vacuum cleaner, goofed off for a while. Ella painted the toenails of one foot blue, then wiped it all off and painted them white. I yelled at her when the toenail polish bottle tipped over onto the bathroom’s tile floor. We went to a big playground for a while, met a friend for lunch and took a nice long nap.

But every day thousands of parents wake up to the last day of their child’s life.

Of course I can’t begin to know what that feels like. I don’t want to. I knew a family once who did, and it was awful.

I told my friend at lunch that becoming a dad has been the most amazing experience in my life. I never imagined — couldn’t have imagined — how wonderful it is. I remember Trish, before I was convinced that producing offspring was a good idea, trying to put into perspective what a child means. I only knew about dogs. “If you think those dogs love you, wait until you hear your own child say she loves you.”

She was right. Hearing Ella, a little person who has, most of the time, complete trust in me, says she loves me, it’s indescribable. What did I do to deserve such loyal affection?

But the love I have for her, it’s more than satisfying, more than fulfilling. I told someone the other day that often when I’m about to laugh or marvel or just enjoy something Ella does, I have a physical feeling that I’ve never felt before. It’s like getting a sudden jolt of the chills mixed with butterflies. It happens just above my gut, and it swells into my throat. I’m glad I’m fortunate enough to recognize that feeling.

Of course, the student who was killed was and adult of 22. But she was still someone’s child.

Trish and  Iwonder, how will we ever be able to let Ella go off to camp, or to a friend’s house for a sleepover, much less leave our home and go away to start her own life somewhere. How will we resist the urge to keep her close, protect her? We will, of course.  We’re not the typoe to be helicopter parents. Probably. Maybe.