But, of course, you never did leave the hospital.
WHY didn't we have a party there in your room? WHY? Some balloons, a few presents, and a chance for your child to snuggle with you. You were frustrated, but still smiling. In two weeks, you would slip away from us, forever. Poof.
So now, a year later, I am finally preparing for that "biggest.party.evarr." Your little girl surely has mixed emotions, but does feel excited, overall. As kids ought to feel when it comes to their birthdays. We don't have anything extravagant planned, but I hope a good time is had by all. And I keep thinking that maybe - just maybe - there will be so much fun and food and family involved, that she won't feel the sting of your absence. Which is ridiculous, I know - how could she NOT? But maybe it won't feel quite so sharp.
She's a teenager this year. Can you believe it? She was only a year old when you moved to this opposite coast - clinging to you, all eyes and no voice.
And now! Tall and confident and chatty! You'd be so proud of her! She's independent, appreciative, working hard at school, doing everything she can to help our family run smoothly. She is as happy and sweet as can be with an incredible eye for detail.
I feel guilty, seeing your daughter sprout into such an amazing young woman. YOU should be planning this party. YOU should be hugging her and telling her how proud you are. YOU should be decorating - one of your favourite things to do - and wrapping presents and helping her plan her birthday outfit, and thinking about how you'll fix her hair. You should be regaling her with stories of her birth and babyhood and filling the house with your laughter.
There are countless ways I will never be able to match you. I worry about these things. I am clueless when it comes to food and style and I am almost gifted as a slacker. I wish I could remember everything you've ever told me about her. I feel like her entire childhood is fading away - leaving no record.
I feel guilty - but at the same time - truly thankful that she has joined our family. I see you in her every day. It's like having a small part of you alive and within reach. When I hug her, I hug you.
I keep trying to remember what her tenth birthday was like. What would you have changed? I know you would have felt overwhelmed - birthdays always did that to you. Money was scarce and there was a chronic lack of time and support. Not to mention the emotional toll of time passing. Would all of that have seemed trivial when exposed under the light of finality? This thought keeps me out of the cave and moving forward, day by day. "What if I am gone next year? How do I want to be remembered?"
This time last year, things were downright awful. But I cling to the faith that you are watching over us. I cling to the hope that next year - things will be better.