My dear little Cara,
Thoughts of you, my little cherub, have been swirling around in my head the last couple weeks as they are wont to do this time of year. With your birthday falling three days after Christmas, I always wanted to make sure you had a special celebration.
If you were still with us, you would be age 47 already, possibly a grandmother yourself. Instead this is your 25th birthday in Heaven. You have returned to Creator longer than you were with me on Mother Earth.
I don’t remember much of my three weeks in hospital awaiting your arrival. My doctor had kindly waited until my classes and exams were over for the semester before admitting me. I barely had a glimpse of you after you were born, as you were whisked away to NICU. I went home alone and returned to my winter classes.
Last year I reflected on our first six years together – me a single parent and newly launched professional, you happily cared for in an amazing day home and day care. My biggest regret is that I was not more intentional in embracing motherhood and that I lacked a solid nurturing base.
Hopefully, my next book will be more about what I wish I had known. I wanted you to be the free spirit you were meant to me and didn’t fully understand my responsibility to guide you in the process.
Those were relatively carefree days, albeit within a carefully managed structure of employment for me and childcare for you, buying my first “real” car (i.e. other than a $200 beater) over three years, and slowly paying off my student loans.
The year 1980 marked you starting Kindergarten and a new after-school program, I changed jobs twice that year, the first my choice, the second because of a twisted political plot, and was fortunate enough to find another stable position. The pictures are from Easter 1981 with your cousins and the last day of the school year. Wearing patches on your jeans was obviously not an issue for either of us at the time.
Later that autumn we officially gave up our little house and moved in with Block and his boys. We had spent most of the year together, we got along well, and it seemed like a positive move at the time. I’m still not sure how or when it all turned so wrong.
1981, forty years ago, was our first Christmas as a blended family. I think I received a diamond ring that Christmas. I say “I think” because it was not a formal engagement, there were no wedding plans, nor do I even have a traditional picture of the ring on my hand. We were both leery from previous failed relationships and settled for a quasi-commitment. You turned seven that year.
1982 passed without incident and our 1982 Christmas pictures still show a happy family. That was the year I bought you all huge stockings. You had fun wearing them and my challenge was to fill them. Your step-brothers are not identified as I did not seek their permission. Those who knew us in those days will remember them; otherwise it is their choice to share their own memories. I also have pictures of sleigh rides with Grandpa John guiding the team and birthday parties at the farm.
I will close at this time for the simple reason I can’t figure out how to continue my words below the pictures. Memories of our happy times slowly became contaminated with an overlap of toxic conflict and I am so sorry that I was not able to prevent the deterioration or remove us both sooner. However, this is not the time to decipher relationship woes. It is my time to give thanks for the wonderful gift of a daughter, my indomitable little spirit. You filled my heart with joy and continue to guide me as I strive to use your story to benefit the world. You deserved a better life and I hope we can still make a difference for other vulnerable young people. Rest well, my darling. I miss you and will love you forever.