Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

This is a poem I wrote about a year ago. I changed several things in it and wanted to share it again this week before Christmas. I am going to share three poems this week, three very personal poems, one for each of my kids. This one is for my oldest.


… because you’re going to dig your toes in one day,

You’re going to dig them in deep at the edge of the shore,

you’re going to feel the shift under your feet and you’re going to lose your balance and you’re going to steady yourself.

I know because I stood there too, I stood there and felt the waves try to pull me away as I steadied myself against the constant shifting of the sand,

… but this is not about me and where I stood, this is not about the waves that knocked me around. This is about the voice of that boy whispering, “I love you”, in the dark of the night and this is about the test that kept you up worrying and this is about your friend who stopped talking to you when she saw the way you looked at her boyfriend and this is about all the sleepless nights you have yet experienced — this is about you, my precious baby.

… because your phone will run out of battery one night,

the night you need it the most,

the night you pick it up to call me.

I’ll be waiting on the other end but my phone will never ring. I’ll look at the silence trickling off of it and I’ll wonder… I’ll get in my car because I’ll know where you are because we talk like that and you’ll see me driving up and you’ll scream at me in front of your friends but when you get in the car your screams will turn to tears of relief because I could hear you through the unused phone and then you’ll switch the radio in mid-cry as you gasp for more air to let it all out and The Maine will be on and we’ll start singing along and when we get home I’ll hear you skyping with your friends about how your “old” mom listens to The Maine and The Decemberists and all of your music and your friends will say you have a great mom and you’ll smile because you don’t see me in the hallway,

… but this isn’t about me. This isn’t about the unanswered calls I made and the tears of anger I cried. This is about you. This is about you balancing on that edge,

… because your friends will push you to think,

your friends will dare you to move and not all of them will want you to move in the right direction, not all of them will push you to see yourself the way they do. You will have to hear them yourself, my precious baby. You will have to make those choices yourself.

They will compel you to lie and laugh and run and skip and yell and curse and they will watch you stand on that edge… looking, deciding.

They will love you and they will hate you and they will leave you and they will return to you.

They will throw life at you and hope you’re ready because there are no do-over’s.

Your friends will be your world when you think I’m not around.

The waves will continue to pounce on you as you sink your toes in and you’ll reach your hand up to grasp hold of mine and you don’t see me… but I’m there. 

You’ll say, “everything is fine”, but I’ll know it’s not.

You’ll say, “leave me alone”, when I know you need me to sit.

You’ll scream at me and curse me and wish for me to leave…

But I’ll know.

I’ll know the sand is shifting so fast you’re struggling to stay above the waves.

But today, today my precious baby.

I hold you and you let me and I see the future because it’s already my past and I’ll beg you to hear me,

I’ll beg you to listen to me because I made those mistakes already and I walked that road already and I lost all my inhibitions around that bonfire and I danced naked in the middle of that house and I pulled my hand back the first time it was slapped and I stood where the waves break the hardest and I screamed to be heard… already.

I’ll yell for you to “keep digging your toes in”!

This time, you’ll listen. You’ll stop… and you’ll listen.

This time, you’ll say, “my mother told me about the shifting sand”. And you’ll look down at your phone and it’s fully charged but you don’t need to use it, you don’t need to call for me. And I’ll be looking at my phone too but it won’t ring.

And I’ll smile.

And I’ll stretch out my fingers as far as I can but I’ll never be able to grasp on…

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You were anxious to make your appearance. Your birth may have been the last thing you were early for — time will tell. It was 4:32am and you were making my back hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t time for you to be here yet so I knew the pain would pass. I decided that if I got into a hot shower you would settle down and I could go on to work. I still remember how great that shower felt, the hot water cascading off my lower back where you seemed to be hanging out — plotting your escape. Forty-five minutes later the hot water started turning cold and you hadn’t released your painful grip on my body yet. I called the doctor and apologized for being so crazy and calling so early and I was sure it was nothing but just wanted him to know — it was 5:45am.

I hung up with the doctor, still in pain but determined that I was only being wimpy and got dressed for work. At 6:30, as I was heading out the door, the pain was unbearable and I was weeping silently — still thinking I was over-reacting and being one of those first time mothers. I woke up your father and told him I thought I might better go to the hospital, just in case. I called the doctor again, apologetically, telling him I was going to the hospital and I was sorry for the trouble. I packed a bag and headed out the door. I phoned work to tell them I would be a little late — I needed to get something for this pain first. It was 7:45am.

I arrived at the hospital embarrassed and apologizing to everyone for being one of those new moms who over-reacts to little false labor pains. The nurse said it was okay and she would have us out of there in an hour or so — not to worry. She hooked you and I up to some monitors and immediately the look on her face changed. She said you were trying to come out and I hadn’t over-reacted. She said it wouldn’t be long before I could hold you. She did an exam and, once again, the look on her face changed… this time to worry. She left the room hastily, saying she needed to call our doctor. She returned and did another exam — her expression never changed. She was worried about you. She told me you were standing up and you shouldn’t be. Your toes were all she could feel and my contractions were closer than first thought. The pace around you and I picked up from that point on. The doctor seemed to arrive instantaneously. He hurriedly explained that several things were going wrong all at once and that you needed to come out — now. It was 1:05pm.

Our doctor was a nice older man who was close to retirement. He was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease and knew he wouldn’t be able to deliver many more babies. Our’s would be a birth by c-section — something the doctor and I hadn’t anticipated. We were whisked into the operating room with many people surrounding us. Their glances went from our doctor’s shaky hands, back to us, and then to each other. I stayed calm and looked him in the eye and told him it was up to him now. I was looking up and couldn’t see, but, the story I was told is that his hands were solid, with no signs of shaking — he was in control of us. There were many things happening at once. It was 2:32pm.

You were here — in the world… in my world. It didn’t take long however for the excitement to continue. Your breathing was shallow and you struggled to keep going. I couldn’t see you. I couldn’t hear you. The nurse leaned over to tell me you had to go to Vanderbilt. They were coming to get you by Angel Flight. I didn’t hold you yet — you were gone. I was alone.

I remember very little about those days when we were apart. I didn’t sleep or eat or cry. I didn’t feel or think — I was numb without you. They finally took me to see you — 3 days later. We spent the next two weeks getting to know each other, you and I — in the NICU. You were surrounded by machines and tubes and dings and lights. When those two weeks had passed, you came home with me — we were finally together again. I watched you breathe. I watched you breathe all night and all day as my precious newborn.

I slipped into your room last night — I watched you breathe. I watched you breathe as a beautiful, healthy teenager.

My Grandmother Emma with her namesake at five months old.

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My oldest daughter has made an unusual request for her 14th birthday gift this year — a chicken suit. Her birthday is in May so she’s making sure I’m aware of the request early enough so I have no excuses. She provided a website and a price and an explanation…it’s #1 on her “bucket list”. Like any good mother of a soon-to-be 14-year-old, I skipped the part about the chicken suit (I’ll come back to that in a minute) and immediately focused on the bucket list.

“A bucket list? Why do you have a bucket list?”

“Duh, it’s things I want to do before I kick the bucket — you know, die.”

“I know what a bucket list is, I don’t like it. Can it just be a life list?”

“No, that’s stupid…it’s a bucket list.”

And so ended the conversation about the bucket list — with her at least. The conversation continued in my mind… I listed all the reasons I did not want her to even think about kicking the bucket much less to have a “to do” list to accomplish before that day arrives.

I know death.

It’s real to me.

I envy people who have made it through life without experiencing the death of someone they love. I’m not one of them. I’ve been to too many funerals, said good-bye too many times, wished for one more conversation far too often. I could list them, but I won’t. But, the list includes aunts and uncles who I loved and who loved me, an older cousin whose friendship I cherished and who loved me and let me follow her around, my grandparents who I spent every summer of my life with (including every birthday — yes, even sweet 16), two very close friends who died during our college years, a brother-in-law who taught me how to play the guitar and tennis, and my parents. I’ve had at least one student from the class I used to teach die unexpectedly on her way to school one morning, and I had a young boy die in my arms at school on a beautiful sunny spring day.

I know death.

I’ve seen it, many times.

I have a bad habit of telling everyone to “be careful”. When I leave a phone call, “be careful”. When I sign off an email, “be careful”. When I write a card, “be careful”. Because I know…

When I don’t hear from a friend or family member when I know they’re traveling or just out, my mind immediately goes to the place of “something happened”. I’m the one who tells you to call or to text when you get there, just so I know.

So, back to the bucket list.

I have a bucket list I suppose. Things I need to do before I’m no longer a part of this world. I’ll share #1 with you if you promise not to tell anyone… #1 – meet Cher. Yes, that Cher.

So, my soon-to-be 14 year-old gorgeous, intelligent, witty, fiercely independent daughter’s bucket list — the one that makes me cringe in fear just to type those words — #1 on her list… run through downtown Nashville wearing a chicken suit. I’ll help her accomplish this (and oh yes, I’ll video it!) because my life experiences aren’t hers, my fears aren’t hers, my worries aren’t hers. I’ll help her accomplish her bucket list, and I’ll try not to tell her to “be careful”.

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