Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Celebrating Tori's 17th Birthday

In a few days – three, to be exact – I get to celebrate my daughter’s seventeenth birthday. I don’t know where the time has gone. I can’t believe that seventeen years ago I could still feel her kick inside me. Seventeen years – it sounds like such a long time and yet it feels like yesterday.

I remember her as that tiny baby who didn’t even fill my arms when we brought her home. I remember her as a toddler running through my parents’ house , walking underneath their kitchen table without needing to stoop to do so, sitting in my dad’s recliner with him as he ever-so-patiently taught her her colors and how to write her name, and I remember her playing in the yard with my mom as Mom tended her flowers.

Then she went to school. I can still see her standing outside the school door, the first day of kindergarten, her face pressed up to the glass, hands beside her head, as she peered in, trying to see what lay before her on that monumental day.

Tori’s life has filled mine with more laughter and love than I have the capacity to convey. I love being her mom, sharing her life, more than I can tell you. I lament, sometimes, how fast the years seem to go. It won’t be long, now, before she’ll be out on her own, at college, really, truly making her own way. It will be here before I can blink.

I know that anyone reading this who is a parent can relate to what I’m saying. The love we have for our children is like no other love in the world. I try to remind myself to hug Tori as often I can, to tell her that I love her whenever I’m thinking it, because we all know that we never know what lies ahead through the next door, or down the next mile of the highway.

Two days ago, two young women from our town were in a horrible car accident. One of them, a freshman in college, died. The other, a junior in Tori’s class, is still in the hospital, but she will recover – physically – from her injuries. We pray that God will help her recover completely. No one could have predicted this tragedy. I’m sure that neither set of parents, when they said goodbye to their daughter that day before the wreck, knew what the day would hold for them.

Ali’s parents will never plan another birthday party for their daughter, as Tori and I have been doing these last couple days. The pictures and memories they have of Ali are all they will ever have, and my heart breaks for them and all they have lost.

God truly blessed me when he gave Tori to me. I pray every day that He will guide me and help me do the best job I can with her, and that He will always be with her, no matter what. Because I can’t be. Because really sad things happen when you least expect them. Because if God is with us, we are never truly lost.

I am grateful for every single hour I get to spend with my daughter, and I’m excited about the rest of her life, about seeing what she does with it, who she is going to become. She’s going to do great things because that’s who she is, and she makes me so proud.

When Tori told me today, all excited about her upcoming party, “I love my birthday!” all I could do was hug her and say, “Me too.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Love you, Dixie

Dixie was a purebred German shorthair, but she never put on airs. She was just everyday folk, and she was a beloved member of our family for sixteen years. Today, she went to sleep, and I pray that when she woke up in her heaven, it was a field filled with critters to chase, places to investigate, and that her body felt as young and limber as it did so many years ago here with us.

There’s so much I could tell you about Dixie. I could tell you how it always made Mom and me smile when we’d watch Dad leave the house in the pickup, Dixie sitting on the bench seat beside him, their two heads close enough together that Mom and I were certain they were sharing secrets known only to them.

I could tell you about the way Dixie liked to cuddle down on her bed at night with her bear – a stuffed animal Mom would buy for Dixie each Christmas. (But if Mom bought one with a squeaker in it, she’d have to operate on the toy and remove the noisemaker before giving it to Dixie because Dix never liked to think she was hurting the toy when she carried it in her mouth.)

I could tell you about sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a meal with the family, and feeling Dixie’s gentle nudge on my leg with her nose, her soulful, big brown eyes begging for a taste of just about anything on my plate. She was rarely refused. And I should also tell you that the nudge came as she stretched her neck into the kitchen from the back porch, where her (back) feet stayed planted. She knew her place, but she also knew how much she was loved, and how much she could get away with because of it. She enjoyed many delectable bits from many, many dinners, and often she enjoyed her own scrambled egg in the morning, courtesy of Mom.

I could tell you about how she shadowed my dad wherever he went outside. As soon as that back porch door swung open to greet the day, Dixie was out and trotting towards the barn, checking everything out as she went, making sure everything was ok before Dad got there. She would – as I already mentioned – ride in the pickup with Dad, trot along beside the tractor wherever that tractor might be going, or walk with Mom and Dad (and us kids) whenever we had places to explore on the farm.

I could tell you she was the best dog ever, and she was. (You might argue, if you have a best friend of the four-legged variety living with you.) But what I really want to tell you is that we lost a member of our family today, and that we’re grateful we got to spend so many years with an amazing dog named Dixie.