Millstones and Milestones

Seventeen. My oldest daughter would have turned seventeen last week. Seventeen seems like such an unimportant birthday. You became legal to drive the year before, and it will be another year before you are an adult. Seventeen is just seventeen.

As I sit here at the park watching my boys and my little girl play at the park, I can’t help but think there is more to being seventeen. This year would be the last she would be a child. Responsibilities sh e will never have to face would be looming around the corner. Decisions about the future would need addressing. She does not have to worry about any of that, but I wish she did.

This morning might have opened with a big breakfast, if we could get her out of bed, and she would have gotten hugs and kisses until she told us to go away. We wouldn’t listen. A dinner of her choosing and a cake made by her mom (or maybe her brother since he loves to bake) would end the day. Would she go out with her friends, or would she stay home with her family? I don’t know, and I never will.

My wife asked me if it would ever stop hurting. I told her no. It will always hurt when those two lonely milestones come around.

For my part the grief for her, my Hailey, hangs about my heart like a millstone grinding away at the wheat of my soul with a slow persistence that I may never be rid of entirely.

Thankfully, I have my wife and children to keep me whole. They are the light that chases away the darkness that wants to feed the destructive urges that lurk beneath the surface. They may never know exactly how much I love them, but I try to show them and tell them every day.

She Would Be Ten

Ten years ago my wife gave birth to my little girl.  The labor had been long and uncomfortable for my wife and ended in a C-Section ultimately.  I was in the operating room holding stroking my wife’s hair and speaking words of encouragement.  We didn’t know what we were having and the anticipation was killing us.  I’ll admit I hid behind the little fabric surgery screen by my wife’s head, not wanting to see her cut open and when they pulled her out and asked if I wanted to cut the umbilcol chord I said no and maintained my position.  I absolutely did not want to be finting in the OR and have the first moment’s of my daughter’s life sullied by the bad cliche that is her father.

I was completely unprepared for how much I loved that little girl.  The C-Section and a couple of complications kept my wife pretty inactive for the first week or so.  Consequently I spent a lot of time with my little Hailey bug, reading to her in the morning (Dragons of Autumn Twilight (April 1984), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) and strapping her to my chest and walking to the corner store for eggs and turkey bacon.  She was my princess.

My Little Hailey Bug at Two Weeks Old

We had her for less than a month when she passed away suddenly.  She was there one day and gone the next. I don’t want to go into the details now and I’ll share some of that later, but she was taken away from us far too quickly.  She was my light and I miss her still.

I often think about what she would be like if she were still alive.  She would be heading into fifth grade this next year.  God…fifth…grade.  I imagine her being very girly but with a strong streek of geek in her.  She would probably be driven insane by her younger brothers, but would defend them mercilessly outside of our home.  She would be a shopaholic like her mother and have the boys coming around all the time.  I would own a shotgun…a big scary looking one…kept in a locked glass case near the front door so all of the potential suitors could see it.  I imagine her sitting on the couch snuggled up next to me watching Star Wars, covered up by a blanket to stay warm despite it being the summer.

I miss her.  Happy Birthday Hailey Thompson Swett.  You still light up my life.