Tag Archives: birthday

Of Socks and Birthdays

I swept through the classroom, closing binders with one hand, even as I precariously aimed my foot at the reading rug and pillows scattered across the floor, trying to straighten them out in front of the fireplace.

“Beary! You got socks on? Time to roll!” I called down the hallway.

“I’m ready!” She emerged from her room with a stuffed cat and pointed a foot at me.

I glanced down and saw the solid blue star on the white background of her sock. A sock that didn’t begin to remotely match the outfit she’d put together, but totally made sense for the day. I looked at her and nodded. She nodded back and smiled. We didn’t have to say a word.

Dallas Cowboys socks on her birthday.

Of course.

It’s the day I miss Kevin most. Of all the beautiful things we created together – memories, traditions, a happy marriage, an incredible friendship – our little Bear is the most beautiful. And we made her. We made her. It still is such an awesome, gives-me-chills, mind-boggling realization. She is part of me and part of him, and all of God’s amazing plan. Infertility was our first struggle and I like to think it made us strong enough to face the fight with cancer that would come our way just two years later. In so many ways, our little miracle baby girl completed us, bringing more faith and love and happiness into our life than you could imagine six pounds and 12 ounces would be capable of holding.

And Kevin loved his Little Bear. Oh, how he loved her. Loves her still, as she reminded me not long after he died. He was fascinated by her and marveled at her tiny fingers and tiny toes and not-so-tiny baby cries. From the moment he walked in the door after work, he held her, hardly even putting her down to eat his supper. I always went to bed a little early, leaving her and Daddy sitting together in the front room, watching ESPN or reading a book. He’d feed her the nighttime bottle, then rock her to sleep. Sometimes I wonder what he whispered to her, as he cradled her in his arms, holding her close, his voice a soothing deep timbre in the dark. Did he tell her he’d always be with her? That she’d always be his little baby girl? That he’d love her forever…no matter what? Even if she wanted to date a Washington Redskins fan someday?

Yes, her birthday is the hardest day for me. I know life isn’t fair, but it seems so incredibly unfair that I get to be here, watching our little girl grow up, sparkling with magic and whimsy, and Kevin can’t share that joy with me. I feel guilt for celebrating this day that brought me so much joy, and I ache for what the two of them will never get to share, and I grieve because I want him here with us so badly. He’s supposed to be here – we’re supposed to do this part together. She’s so much like him – more every day, it seems. Her handwriting, her wry jokes; he would get such a kick out of her spot-on observations of the absurdities of life. She is the best thing I’ve ever done and I still can’t believe she belongs to me. How did I get so lucky? She’s nine now, going on twenty-nine it seems, and every day with her brings more delight – even the hard days.

And on that hardest of days, she surprised and delighted me again. I woke with a heavy heart, thinking of Kevin, memories of the night she was born chasing through my dreams. But her exuberant smile and birthday excitement were contagious. She ripped open her gifts and asked for leftover ice cream cake for breakfast – just like her Daddy. She chased the cats, made her bed, and read a book.

Then, to make sure Daddy was with her every step of the day, she pulled on her Dallas Cowboys socks – never minding the fact that sports socks don’t go with black Mary Janes.

She’s ready, all right. Ready to show me that he’s still here, still with us, still loving us, still part of this birthday celebration.

Somehow, over the last nine years, that tiny baby I snuggled close at the hospital turned into an amazing, smart, and brave girl. A girl confident in love and secure in knowing her Daddy is still with her.

I nodded again. It’s still a hard day, but it’s going to be okay. Our little girl is still bringing more faith, love, and happiness into my life than I could imagine. Thank you, God, for the gift of her. It’s her birthday, but she’s the gift.

“Okay, then,” I said. “Let’s go, birthday girl!”

And we were off.

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A Picture of Love

Our daughter was born in the middle of a clear, cold winter night. The best-laid birth plans were soon tossed aside when her distress demanded an emergency cesarean. She was born quickly, and I can still hear her tiny cry as the doctor lifted her, pink and squirming, from the warmth under my heart.

I held her and kissed her wee fingers and Kevin’s cheek was wet against mine as the anesthesiologist snapped our first family photo, our Bear’s eyes scrunched tight against the harsh glare of the surgery lights.

Fifteen hours later, after the worry and trauma of the night had worn off and I was resting, my arm draped over the bed rail, hand curled protectively over her body as she slept in the bassinet, a nurse came to check her vitals and then took my tiny girl away. Stuck in the bed, still wearing off the effects of the surgery, I begged Kevin, “Stay with her. Don’t leave her alone.” He kissed me and promised, then hurried after the nurse.

I waited and the time ticked by so slowly and I couldn’t get out of the bed to find them, to find out what was going on. Five minutes, then ten, then twenty. Where’s my baby? Someone tell me what’s going on! Finally, a nurse came in and started talking and her words blurred but I understood…my Bear was sick. I felt impotent, trapped in the bed, the body that had grown her and nurtured her now unable to move and help her, but I knew Kevin was with her. She was not alone with the needles pricking and IVs inserting and blood drawing. Her Daddy was with her. And later, much later, when we were finally home after a week in the hospital and I downloaded photos, I found it. His eyes were rimmed with red and worry, and she was lost in the protective embrace of his arms, IV tubing trailing from her small scalp over his green sweatshirt, her head gently cradled against his heart. A picture of love. A picture of his promise. He stayed with her the whole time.

I thought about that photo as I snuggled with her in his recliner, her lanky eight-year-old legs sprawling over the footrest. She loves to hear the story of her birth day, and I tell it to her every year and she jumps in when I miss a word because it’s her story and she wants it right.

But this year is different because it’s her first birthday without her Daddy Bear who absolutely adored her. I gave her gifts when she woke up and she gleefully ripped the wrapping paper from the boxes and exclaimed over the surprises but I felt so lonely watching her without Kevin yawning behind me in the early dawn.

We stayed in that day, just the two of us, and she and I watched movies and ate leftover party cake and played board games and tried out her new toys and she declared it the “BEST birthday EVER!” and she flung her arms around my neck for a deliciously grand Bear hug. And when we untangled ourselves and snuggled under the blanket in the recliner, she wondered if Daddy saw her turning eight.

I squeezed her close and said, “Oh, yeah, Beary, he sees you. He is always with you…and me…in our hearts. He promised me one time that he would stay with you – and I know he’s still keeping that promise.”

She smiled and tucked that away to turn over in her mind when the worries and sadness press in. I know she’s tucked it away because I’ve done the same thing. It’s been hard, this last month with the holidays and celebrations piling up on top of each other, with no room to breathe, to rest, to stop for a moment. And I’ve slipped into the darkest part of me, the part that can’t feel the joy or get out of bed or welcome a new year. But there, in the darkness, tucked away for when I need it, is a shimmer of light, the glow of God’s words. Just like Kevin promised me that he would not leave our baby alone, God promised that He would stay with me through everything.

I am not alone.

God was with me that awful afternoon in the hospital, when I lay helpless and afraid for my baby. He was with me that Tuesday last April when Kevin slipped away to heaven. He was with me this year on my daughter’s birthday, as I handed her a gift and fought back tears because I wanted her Daddy to be with us. He is with my beautiful Bear, as she struggles to adjust to this life where our joy at celebrating life is tinged with sadness.

God is with us, helping us to laugh and breathe and live in His promises and in His love.

And when I picture that love, I see a daddy, heartbroken at the suffering of his baby, holding her gently to his heart and promising to never leave her alone.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)