Happy Birthday Michaela

I was watching Call the Midwife the other day, and one of the characters said, “The future is hidden from the young. That is perhaps their blessing, and their curse.” My mind went immediately to one of the images that always comes up for me, just caring for Michaela as a young child, playing with her on the floor. I am always struck by how completely oblivious we both were, how innocent, how naively we believed that we were like any other mother and child, that the course of our lives would follow the normal rhythms of growing. I thought Michaela was my child, and that this was some kind of inviolate rule. Mine to love, to care for, to protect, to support.

This always makes me angry, when it comes up. It makes me feel, I don’t know, like I was lied to, cheated, given the idea of a future that wasn’t to exist. I sat on the floor with Michaela playing with blocks, and somehow she magically learned her letters just because I’d say their names when I piled them up. She had turned this simple game into a skill to build on with other skills, to lay a foundation for a lifetime.

I guess the essential thing is this: If this little game was robbed of its “purpose,” of a lifetime in which Michaela would read and learn and work and love and grow, then what is left is each individual moment. Those moments I spent on the floor with one year old Michaela had no purpose in the universe except to be on the floor, playing with my daughter, loving her in that very moment. Our purpose was wrapped up in nine years, nine months and 26 days filled with precious moments spent with each other. In the end what tortures me is not whether I prepared her to be the smartest and most successful, but the thought of any moment that slipped through my fingers when I might have showered her with more love.

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the day Michaela first came into my life, when I first held her, looked into her face and fell so much more deeply in love than I’d imagined possible. I don’t even know anymore how to feel about these things, whether to mourn or celebrate. So instead of either, I think I am going to just love. I’m going to feel your presence in my heart, Michaela, and I’m going to hold you and love you. There are times when I don’t do that now, many times, because it is really kind of difficult. It brings me right to the edge of the abyss, the black hole in the center of my life. But you always paid attention, even when you were a baby, even when I thought you weren’t. You paid attention to what I did, and listened to what I said, and perhaps you still do. I don’t want my pain to betray my love for you, Michaela. I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you. Forever. Wherever you are. And until we meet again and I can hold you in my arms, I will hold you in my heart.

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