Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dear Grace

Dear Grace,

Lovely, silly, happy Grace;
Bouncing, laughing, energetic Grace;
Musical, dancing, drawing Grace;
Caring, snuggling, beautiful Grace;
I am so proud to call you mine. 

I turn around and there you are,

You are racing on your bike;
You are running on the beach;
You are sitting by yourself reading on the couch;
You are holding my hand so tightly as we cross the street;
Everywhere I look, I see you.

And today is your birthday! Your 8th one. Just the other day you were born.

And I wanted to take a moment and write you this letter to let you know just how important and cool you are and much you mean to me. 

I know how much you enjoy bedtime stories, snuggling up against me as I read, so allow me to tell you a story, or actually a series of stories that stick in my brain from the early days of Grace.

It was one of those early fall days in September that, while still warm and sunny, bring a cool in the early evening that remind you that the long days of summer have past. Your mom and I were in Vernon, playing ultimate and enjoying our first weekend without Charlotte since she’d been born. On our way up to the tournament, we’d met grandma and grandpa, our babysitters, and then we were off to enjoy our free time hanging around with our friends, throwing Frisbees  -you'll understand when you're older. After a long, strenuous day, the team met up for dinner, but the restaurant of choice had such a long line, so your mom and I took off and decided to have a dinner for two instead. I remember sitting there, just enjoying the peace and quiet with no baby to take care, when your mom received a message from her doctor that she was indeed pregnant again. Pregnant with you, dear Gracie. After enjoying the moment, despite the subpar food, we sent the good news, via text, to our families and started thinking about the busy and exciting future that lay ahead.

Fast forward to the late fall of 2007 when I was fully immersed in my brand new job as a counsellor at Gladstone. One day after work, I drove your mom to a regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment on West Broadway. These appointments were always an interesting combination of uneventful and exciting, sort of like flossing your teeth. Upon arriving, we'd walk confidently through the waiting area, be shown a few ultrasound images, told a few measurements, make some small talk and then asked to book another appointment upon leaving. This time, though, was far from routine. Our doctor, upon examining your mom, uttered two phrases that no one ever wants to hear “this doesn’t look good” followed by “I’m not sure what this is.” Evidently there was some sort of growth where there shouldn’t be and we were told a name of something that may be happening, instructed not to Google it and then asked to come back after she had consulted with her colleagues. Whatever confidence we’d entered with was snatched away and I remember walking back to the car in a daze worrying if our second child was coming after all. I think back to that day often and consider ourselves so amazingly fortunate.

Because, magically, somehow everything worked out and the highly anticipated day finally arrived. I had graduated just a few days before alongside your aunt, Niki, from UBC with our Master’s degrees in Counselling Psychology and had a number of beautiful photos taken with your very pregnant mom. Grandma and grandpa came down from Penticton to look after your sister, and we drove to the hospital for the big event. After the introductions and a detailed review of the rules, the lights were lowered for game time. I was ready; I’d brought music and snacks. Your sister had taken her own sweet time, but you popped out so quickly as if you had somewhere to go or our parking was about to expire. You've always been so thoughtful. After pretty much everyone else nearby got a chance to hold you, it was finally my turn. I had removed my shirt, because someone had told me that babies love the warm skin-on-skin contact – good thing for all I couldn’t keep using that excuse for removing my shirt as you grew. It is quite an emotionally overwhelming feeling, holding a little baby, especially one you helped create, and I clutched you close, frozen in time, just enjoying the warmth between our bodies, listening to you breath in that dimly lit hospital room.

Once settled back in at home, we developed a number of routines all built around you. In the middle of the night, your mom would wake up to feed you and then, so she could sleep, I’d take you downstairs and lay down on the couch with you. We’d lay there, me on my back, you on your front, and I’d hold you firmly as you lay on me. It’s hard to sleep no matter how tired and sleep deprived as I was, by the way, when you are aware of a little baby on you. But whatever I was doing worked for you and your mom as you both got in a few good consecutive hours of sleep before the sun rose, the alarms went off and I had to get up to go to work. I don’t remember how many weeks or months this arrangement went on for, but I do know that I viewed plenty of early morning Wimbledon that June as I lay there on the couch, half awake, half asleep holding my little girl as she sighed and squirmed and made very cute little noises with her lips while she slept. Sure I spent the daytimes as nothing more than a glorified zombie, and some would argue that it wasn’t that different from my normal operating mode anyways and those people wonder why they don’t get cards at holiday times. By the way, it was all worth it.

Life at home with two little girls was fun and exhausting and challenging and a whole bunch of other adjectives that I could list for you at a later date if you wish but I’m leaving out here as I’m attempting to be brief. Your mom and I, while experienced parents already, had to learn how to balance a million things without complaining about a total lack of free time too much. From day one you were always curious, creative and silly and I may have tickled you or playfully smacked your bum a few times. I’d write that I’m sorry, but I promised I’d never lie to you in writing. Once the summer ended, I’d go off to work, take Charlotte to day care and your mom would stay home playing with and taking care of you. Then I’d come home and place you in the front pack, put Charlotte in the backpack, and walk proudly around the neighbourhood, for the exercise, the fresh air and to show off my two spectacular kids. We could have sold tickets. You were always such an active little girl, wanting to move, crawl, walk and then run. And always smiling or laughing. Such a happy baby you were.

And now you are 8! 

From that very first moment at the hospital back in late May of 2008 I felt a connection so strong. "So that's how magnets with opposite polarity feel," I remembered thinking at the time. From that very first moment, our family just felt perfectly complete like you were the missing puzzle piece or special ingredient all along. Life was great before you arrived, but then you helped take it to an even higher level that previously seemed impossible.

There was a time before you. I met your mom, had your sister and life was busy and good and then, then you arrived on that early morning in that plain hospital room. Things got a whole lot less plain after you showed up. And they've never been plain since.

You are such a personality. No one in your life will ever call you boring. Whatever you do, never stop being the goofy, funny, creative and kind person that you are. As I sit here on the eve of your last day being 7, I am stunned how the time has flown by. 

I love you, Grace

Happy birthday.