I have a running letter in my head I've been writing for years now, a letter to T. Almost every day I add a little to it—all the things I want to say to her and don’t, or can’t; or will, when the time comes.
Some of these things are apologies, for how difficult home life can be sometimes, in those dark, rocky, spiraling spaces of time, when things are bad with L., and how sorry we are that try as we can, there are many days we just can’t strike a balance.
Don't give up on us, I write to her in my head.
Or for that moment of lost patience, generated out of frustration for things that were not her fault, or our fault, really, or the universe's fault--the list goes on.
Or for the double standard that hangs over her everyday, and the expectations we have of her, and the responsibilities she rises to, patiently, and with enthusiasm.
But there are many other things I write in my head. Things about the way her good soul shines out of her eyes, and the way her happiness can fill a room, like sunshine in the morning; or about how when she wants something she won’t let it go; she’ll present it over and over again to you, sometimes in different ways, but always there. I love this of you, I write to her in my head, even though sometimes it drives me crazy, this relentless inability to accept “no” for an answer (it will serve her well one day, though, won’t it?).
I have written long paragraphs in my head to T. on what it’s like to be a parent in awe of your infant’s bravery, her character, her strength. The night after her surgery, when we were finally allowed to see her, I washed my hands and scrubbed my nails until they hurt and stood over her metal crib. I looked down on her, and couldn’t believe how someone so small could show someone so much older how to be brave, and strong, and resilient herself. There were times, in the dark, when I’d hold T. and think, I want to be just like her.
When she headed off to kindergarten that first day in September, her small body dwarfed by the gigantic backpack bouncing against her back, I was sad, of course. But I also felt what it was like to be happy knowing your child is happy—happy to have this adventure, this big-kid moment, and that she’d be okay. And that knowing she’d be okay, that was the biggest gift she could have given us that day.
My T. is six today. Six years ago, at 7:50 in the morning, my daughter was born. I looked down and saw her there between my legs, a small body with flailing arms and legs, and above all I felt a sense of gratitude, and awe, for what I had been given that morning. In the uncertain hours and days following her birth, the sense of awe remained, stubborn, and resilient, just like T., refusing to ebb.
On the day of our discharge from the hospital, an hour or so after the pediatrician on call told us about T.’s birth defect, and the surgery she’d be having in six months time, Scott and I sat alone in the room, holding T. between us.
“Will she be okay?” My husband asked, looking to me for reassurance and guarantees. Without missing a beat, I answered, “Yes she will.”
Because I knew she would.
Happy Birthday T.-girl, sunshine-girl. We love you.