Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fifteen Years

It's that time of year again.  My Halloween costume is almost perfect, I've successfully resisted the urge to eat too much candy (okay, let's say that my teeth are still in my head so I must not have eaten too much, right?), the heat has finally kicked on, and my arm is still a wee bit sore from my flu shot.

It must be my daughter's birthday.

She's fifteen this year, and I can't fathom where all the years have gone.  I can remember, quite clearly, the anxiousness waiting for her to make her arrival (scheduled two weeks before she showed up), and then the effort to bring her around (and the resulting promises that I would NEVER do that again).  She was perfect - her hair was (and still is) the brightest shade of red - shiny like copper - and every nurse in the wing of the hospital had to come see the little red-headed baby.

Life isn't a perfect thing, and being responsible for an entire new human being at the ripe old age of nineteen wasn't a smooth process.  Within days of coming home from the hospital, she had jaundice severe enough to require a nurse to come to the house, and for her to be a "suitcase baby" (the 1998 home version of the incubator my sister Faith stayed in at the hospital in the 1970s).  I will never forget the helplessness I felt when doctors were explaining that one of the possible outcomes of severe jaundice is brain damage.

Through the toddler years, she had chronic ear infections.  We've battled bronchiolitis, with its companion nebulizer.  Over the years there's been pneumonia, asthma, ankle sprains, ankle surgery, and strep throat countless times, nevermind the time she fell on a broken mason jar in a pond, and I spent the most terrifying twenty minute car ride to the Emergency Room with her assuring her that "No, you aren't going to die," all the while regaining my ability to pray and asking God to make that be true.
There is nothing that can prepare a nineteen year old (or a thirty-nine year old, or a ninety-nine year old) for the complete transformation from a woman to a mother.  It is, without question, the scariest, funniest, saddest, and most fulfilling thing that I've ever done.

Fifteen years in, I've heard "I love you" more times than I can count, and "I hate you" more times than I'd like to remember.  We've had long, enlightening conversations about politics, and short, angry conversations about school clothes.

I'm not sure when it was that she went from being a little combination of her Dad and me (with some of our extended family thrown into the mix) to being a completely separate person.  Yes, I know that she's always been her own person - but I can't remember when I realized that!

The crux of it all is that I love her more than would have ever imagined I'd be capable of loving.  I am proud of everything she accomplishes, she's one of the most intelligent people I know, creative, eloquent, and with fantastic taste in entertainment.

Here she is, on the day we met.
At nineteen, I certainly didn't have a clue what I was in for - but oh, it's the sweetest and most unpredictable ride of my life, and we've got decades more to go!