Sixteen-year-old a sweet gift to family
By Sheila Hagar
- As of Monday, March 17, 2014
Today, April 18, my youngest child turned 16. Sixteen! As I tend to do, I shall celebrate a milestone on this page with a personal letter.
Dear Miss Tall and Blond,
Let me start this off by saying happy, happy birthday. You deserve the best one ever.
Have I told you the story about how I found out you were meant to be my daughter? So there I was one day, driving to a job way out in the country. I knew you were close to being born and I was a wreck. Your twin sisters were 4 years old and showing signs of the prenatal brain trauma they had suffered. Daddy and I didn’t know then that Strong-hearted Girl and Martha Stewart, Jr. would live with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder for their whole lives, but we did know our hands were already very full.
We also knew we would soon have a decision to make — a new sibling was about to make his or her appearance and we would be asked if we wanted to become parents for a sixth time.
“God,” I screamed. “I am exhausted. I am crazy busy. I can’t do any more. If I’m supposed to do this, you’re going to have to show me in a big way. BIG. Do you understand, God?”
Honey, never say that to God. Because he will so take you at your word.
I was zipping along when I came upon a big dog sitting in the road. I slowed and watched the lab pick himself up to mosey on across.
I’ll put on some speed and get past him before he changes his mind again, I thought.
He changed his mind. I pushed hard on the brake pedal and turned the steering wheel in our 1981 Subaru Brat. The one without anti-lock brakes.
I was going 45 miles per hour with a locked-up and tiny vehicle, headed toward a wreck. I saw a field fenced with barbed wire ahead. Not so bad, I thought, a second before my tire ran over a rock.
That tweaked the truck’s course juuuuust enough to send me toward the nearest power pole. It was not a good time to recall the Brat’s front seat belt required extra tugs to lock it tight. Which I had failed to do, so busy freaking out about my future and all.
Subaru hit pole, driver hit steering wheel. With face.
The rest was like a TV movie. An off-duty emergency medical technician was standing on his porch and saw the whole thing, meaning your blacked-out mom got rescued by Milton-Freewater’s Rural Fire Department in pretty short order.
At the hospital, my broken nose was splinted and taped. Tests were done. I wonder now if my chest X-rays showed what was already in my heart then — God’s big answer. “You’re alive. Serve me.”
As soon as you arrived home you became the glue we’d been missing, the bridge between older and younger sisters. No one could get enough of “our baby.”
I mean, there was that one time a sister fed you a spoonful of Play-Doh, but generally you were cherished, pampered, adored.
You took it all in. People used to remark that you were “so observant,” while I worried about every possible developmental problem.
It was for naught. You were merely soaking things in for this time, when you are beginning to express yourself in writing and photography. Your voice through those venues takes my breath away some days.
I’ve already come to appreciate so much I see of the adult you are becoming.
For starters, you can love. You loved your daddy with all your heart and now you love a new dad.
It took time. You refused to “fake it until you feel it,” insisting on finishing your grieving in your own time. But when you had climbed that mountain, you could accept the view on the other side.
That’s when you became a real Camo Daughter. And even on the days you and Dad clash, I know neither of you would trade in the other.
Second, you are honest. Well, not about whether your laundry is done or who ate the last piece of pizza. That’s coming, right? Right? But you are honest about who you are and what you believe. Those things evolve in all of us, but not many teens get that. You, though, understand your soul and are willing to give it breathing room.
You are courage. A solid core of bravery. We thought when we lost Daddy it would be the roughest time of your young life. But that came this year. Difficult personal decisions had to be made, some that still ache. You, my girl, accepted the road ahead, put on your rubber boots and prepared for mud. Without self-pity.
And Miss Tall and Blond? You are a child of God. Not that every thought you have is charitable and loving — it would be enormously cool to see some of both directed at the people you live with — but you have a thirst for spirituality that puts my own to shame. At 16, you are steadfast in faith. It’s a flag you fly with self-declared impunity.
Sixteen years ago, as I faded in and out of consciousness while sirens grew closer, I probably thought God was saying he wanted me to be your mom for what I could give you.
I see now he gave me to you for what you can give me.
Happy birthday, daughter. Carry on, because you’re doing it right.