Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Daughter, on Your 13th Birthday

Dear Daughter,

You turned 13 years old yesterday.  In my usual fashion, I’m catching up a day late.  I wanted to say some things that feel important right now.  Sometimes I remember that now is better than later.  And I want us both to remember some other things.

I remember an evening thirteen years ago full of intense moments.  It was intense when your mother went into hard labor in the truck, 19 miles from the hospital.  I was driving over 100 miles per hour for quite a while, and every stoplight felt like a new definition of eternity.  I bet it was a little stressful for your Mother, too.  Despite that drama, you were born in a hospital delivery room 12 minutes after we burst through the doors of the Emergency Room.  When Mom handed you over so I could say, “Hello,” you made yourself comfortable and completely soaked me.  I’m pretty sure that was your early way of saying, “Hi there.  You’re MINE.”

I as write this, photos of your early life flash through my mind.  A spiky-haired baby sitting in Grandma’s kitchen.  A toddler crawling around with a blanket in her mouth.  Saggy-bottom diapers, and tiny Broncos’ cheerleader outfits.  Then it all rushes forward to the blue eyes, long blonde hair, and a dazzling smile that greets me nearly every morning when I’m home, along with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Things have changed for both of us in 13 years.  Back then, Parkinson’s Disease was something that Micheal J. Fox was fighting and I had more hair.  Now, Parkinson’s is my daily companion and who knows what happened to the hair.  I’m not afraid of it, really.  (Parkinson’s, not hair loss…)  What scares me is the thought that even now, you can barely remember me in my “normal” state of health before Parkinson’s Disease started damaging and changing my brain.  Five years from now, you’ll be a very different person, a woman.  Try to remember me as I am now.   Because right now, we can still laugh.  Laughing with you is the best.

Remember that your mother is a brilliant woman.  She was a National Merit Scholar and has an engineering degree.  It’s a blessing that you inherited her intelligence instead of mine.  Hers is kinder, compassionate, patient, and more tolerant.  Mine was brash, overbearing, impulsive, and narcissistic.  But this is changing.  I didn’t understand when I was diagnosed 5 years ago that Parkinson’s would affect my intellect, because it was considered to be a “movement disorder.”  Ever the student and scientist, I can see the slow changes in my thinking and memory.  Sadly, it took something like this to shift my perceptions of the world around me, and now I can begin to truly appreciate just how amazing your Mom’s mind is.  Over the next 5 years, you will come to rely on her less and less, but I will be needing her more and more every day.  Be kind to her, even when it feels like she (we) are ruining your new life as a teenager.  She will need this kindness.

I have one request for these coming years: please fish with me.  There are few things I look forward to more these days than fishing, except for fishing with my family.  Walk some streams with me and let’s take some photos.  Maybe we’ll catch a fish from time to time.  I’d really love to have those memories, just in case my fishing days are numbered.  And as a former teenager, I’m planning for a time in the not-too-distant future when you’ll be wanting to spend more time with your friends than your family.  Don’t worry.  It’s not cruel or unusual.  It’s life.  But I'd love to build a few more memories before both our lives inevitably change and you don't automatically reach for my hand when we're walking side by side anymore.

During these years of metamorphosis, I will enjoy experiencing a “new” daughter every day, one that’s just a little different than the one I met the day before.  Life is teaching me that efforts to predict the future are not only futile, but also wasteful and sometimes painful.  Planning is important, but making predictions is just plain silly.  So, instead of offering predictions for your future, I offer hope.  I hope you’re able to realize some of your dreams.  I hope you get to ride in a cab in New York City.  I hope you get to pursue elk with a bow.  I hope you discover many more things that make you happy in life.  I hope that you make lots of small mistakes and very few big ones.  I hope you always shine the way you do now, you crazy lil’ diamond.

Thanks for being my movie buddy, my elf, my "Murph."  And thanks for helping with my shirt buttons from time to time.

Love Forever,

Your Weird Father

Editorial Note:  A few years ago, my daughter and I were talking and I said, “Yes, your father is weird.”  Her response will stay with me forever: “That’s okay.  ‘Weird’ is just a side-effect of ‘AWESOME’!

17 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kevin. I appreciate you stopping by.

      Delete
  2. Chris
    What a wonderful post, cherish your children, they grow up so fast. I still call my daughter my little girl today although she is 33 years old with 3 wonderful children of her own. Beautiful daughter, thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Bill. Having had a few close calls in life, I try very hard. My morning hug and kiss are often the highlight of my day. The good news is that her Mom's waders don't fit yet, so I know she's still little. ;)

      Delete
  3. Chris, that was something that your daughter will remember for the rest of her life. It will be something that she can cherish into her old age. I hope you and your little elf will enjoy many days on the water together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was exactly was I was hoping to give. She came and dried her eyes on my shoulder after she read it.

      I'll take on day on the water at a time.

      Delete
  4. As a stay-at-home dad with 2 daughters, who aren't teens yet...this hit home. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they're already fishing with you. We got started a little late. I see the changes about to happen, and I'll holding on loosely and trying to stay close.

      Delete
    2. I've taken them many times. But no interest. However they love the outdoors...bug collections, camping, canoeing and kayaking...so I'm good with that. They know the invite is always extended.

      Delete
  5. Cant find the word. Very nice post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's how I feel when I read some of your work, Ralph. Thank you.

      Delete
  6. I will get an occasional hug from the 11yr old son, but kisses are few. The youngest hasn't stopped, thank god.

    She has your soul. That is the greatest gift. All the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The 15 year old son still likes being tucked in at night, but is usually more of a bear-just-out-of-hibernation in the morning.

      As soon as I get better at catching fish, not just going fishing, I know I'll be able to keep him interested. :)

      Delete
  7. My eyes are leaking... which happens so rarely cuz of the meds I'm on. I always knew you'd be a great dad, even if you didn't. Your daughter is beautiful. What you said about your daughter is wonderful and so needed to be heard by her. The wonderful things you say about your wife also shows the wonderful man you are. You made a great "catch"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm somewhat at a loss here, so I'll go with this in response: I'm trying to be better.

      Delete
  8. Love the honesty here, and the sense of hope where it counts. Keep up the fine writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Walt. I appreciate the compliments and encouragement. One thing I've promised my daughter is that I would try to always be honest with her. Glad that came through.

      Delete