September is a BIG birthday month in our family. Starting with my mother-in-law, followed by my daughter, Anna and finally ending with my husband, Paul. All three birthdays come within a week of each other. Needless to say we eat a lot of cake in the span of a week! However this year the birthdays coincided with two really big events. The first being the 10th Anniversary of 9-11. The second much more personal and life-changing. However, both are days I will never forget.
Anna was born during the week of 9-11. Like most people, 9-11 is a day in which I remember every detail from where I was to what I was eating. I remember I had just sat down with my breakfast of toast, fruit and tea and turned on The Today Show. The first tower had already been hit. It was so confusing. No one knew what was going on. Was it a small plane, a jet, an accident, a terrorist? I watched as the second plane hit. I screamed. I couldn’t believe I had just seen that! We all knew then this was no accident. As I continued to watch, I saw the first, then second tower fall. I remember thinking, all of those lives have just been snuffed out. I have witnessed the death of thousands. It made me sick to my stomach. So sick that I actually threw up. The entire week I was in a sort of fog. The entire nation was stunned. The skies were eerily quiet as no planes were flying. The news was dark and grim with the names and faces of the missing, eventually dead. But just 4 days later, my beautiful baby girl was born. She was the light during a dark week. She was hope. Life goes on after loss. So when Anna turned 10 years old this month, I kept thinking about all of those babies who were born after 9-11. Especially to mothers whose husbands had been lost that day. Then I began to think about my own children and the loss they have suffered in the last 3 years. But that quickly turned to hope in the new life they are living today. Which brings me to the second significant event this September.
Paul’s birthday is the day after Anna’s. He wanted nothing but a nice dinner out with me on Saturday evening to include beer and pub food. This was a task I gladly took on! Cards were exchanged, hugs given, kisses bestowed the morning of his birthday. It was a school day, so we had our usual routine of getting everyone out the door for school and our runs. But Paul received an unexpected gift from someone that left us speechless. It was from Anna. Their relationship has been very good from the start. Paul never presumed anything with Anna. He wanted her to develop a bond with him naturally just as he has with her. He tended to this bond like a garden, carefully and tenderly cultivating it without stepping on her toes, her feelings, or her memories of her biological father. Paul knew that by allowing their relationship to grow organically, good things would come from it. Paul’s love for the children is amazing. These are his children as far as he is concerned. Anna loves Paul very much. But there was still that barrier. She was afraid to be hurt…again. Her loss was significant. It was more than just bodily loss, it was a bond that was lost forever. She was Daddy’s princess. But I have taught the kids life has to continue pushing forward. You have to remember the past with fondness and honor it by laughing. Living in the past only makes life harder. My only hope is that this lesson is getting through to them.
That morning, Paul received a gift he never asked for and never expected…the gift of being called Dad by Anna. Up until this point, she referred to him as D2 (Dad 2). Paul had told Anna many times that she could call him that for as long as she wished. Even if that meant forever. But that morning Anna announced clearly, “Today for your birthday, I am going to start calling you Dad because that is what you are to me. My Dad”. Both Paul and I were stunned. I remember a big smile erupting on Paul’s face as he hugged his daughter for the “first” time. He knew this was HUGE. He knew for Anna this was the last barrier to be brought down. He knew she was taking a big risk and giving him her whole heart. This truly was the best birthday present he could have received. Paul is now the father of a son AND a daughter.
I remember driving the kids to school that morning and trying not to tear up as I drove. My children are happy, healthy, witness to a loving relationship, and have TWO parents who love them unconditionally. Nothing sounds sweeter than the laughter of my children and the word Dad leaving their lips. From Death comes Life from Life comes Hope from Hope comes Love. Like 9-11, the day Anna called Paul Dad for the first time is a day I will never forget. I will remember every detail of its significance. I will remember where I was, what I was doing and how I felt. Most of all, I will remember that life is full of precious gifts.