Sometimes our heroes aren’t those who have come before us. They don’t wear capes or turn colors. Maybe they don’t do a single magnificent thing but rather millions of small everyday things, to remind you of what character and integrity look like.
My hero is my daughter. Born on the United States Marine Corp birthday, just missing reveille by a few minutes and her due date by 3 weeks, she has forever set her own schedule. Testing out of 19 credit hours upon entering Purdue, she graduated in 3 1/2 years rather than waste time: our “always late” girl. She never feels rushed, never moves quickly. Rather she absorbs her environment then records it on a canvas with little effort. If she likes a song, she teaches herself to play it on her piano. Find a craft she can’t do, she will figure it out and put a new spin on it. Build a desk, sew a costume, program my tv, she can fix anything. Fix everything. She doesn’t like to cook, growing up with a restaurant in the family she has great food safety knowledge and an uncanny ability to find someone, anyone to prepare food for her.
Traveling and learning are as much of who she is as her beautiful green eyes, she eats information about other cultures and languages as if is feeding her very soul. The respect and compassion she shows to other cultures was never more clear to me than when we traveled together in South East Asia. I learned invaluable lessons about respectful traveling, brave adventures, and trust from her. Her year in South Korea cemented her broad cultural respect and love of Asia. She taught me to just go, whenever I have the chance, go.
But the child who is now 25 as I prepare to celebrate 50 years in 2 months, who I have spent half of my life with, is so much more than this list. Maybe because she was born on the birthday of the Always Faithful, she is the most loyal person I have ever met. Loyal to any passion that takes her heart. Loyal to all things, all people, all animals, all places, all words, all concepts, that touch her heart. She won’t let go, she will be there regardless of distance or time in between. The fierceness of her love, the calmness of her exterior, the determination in achieving her goals are hidden by a silly, wry often sarcastic sense of humor. A wicked ability to remember and recite movie or tv lines, reciting them at the best moment, a focus on cat gifs and llama nonsense belie her true heart.
This girl has stood the test of time, has fought her battles, has never had an easy road. She had early pain that changed her course so you better believe she doesn’t accept yours as an excuse. We have come to know she moves faster than anyone around, while she is sitting still. Her brain never stops. Her integrity won’t quit. She will make me laugh until I fall on the floor which no one else can do. If you count her as a friend, you have been given a truly unique gift. Hold on to it. She will. And Lord help us when her baby comes. That fierce love may only allow those in the inner ring of her trust to get near. Happy Birthday, Sis. you amaze me.
I wrote those words 3 years ago, unaware that only a year later I would be ejected from her life. I would get one more chance to say Happy Birthday to my daughter and now two years of silence. Yesterday I woke up believing I had a meeting at church, that it was November 15, I had mentally skipped right over November 10. I knew it was coming of course, her gift and card sit on my dresser. I just for the first time ever shut it out. Until I looked at my phone and received a shock, like that first contraction that you knew would happen but still seemed so far off, so unexpected. It changes your world with the intrusion, the demand for attention. You begin to breathe differently, look for the next wave.
I sat through my contractions again yesterday, I focused on breathing and made it through each wave of my heart tightening, knowing that I would not experience the joy at the end. Yet no amount of silence from her can deny the truth of our connection, can deny that on this day especially, we both celebrate. She allowed me to begin wearing my most coveted title, “mom” as my first born. I have refused to relinquish it, I won’t ignore 26 years of laughter and tears and hugs and bedtime rituals and phone calls and packing and unpacking and all the joys that go into loving a child. I will love her forever, await the day that my phone rings and her voice, oh God, her voice is what I hear. I will wait for the day when I come home and find her on the couch, in the kitchen, sleeping upstairs. I will wait. Because I know who she is, I am her mother.