I don’t normally go for a gushy, over-the-top birthday post. I don’t particularly care to read them on other people’s sites so you won’t see a whole lot of that here—perhaps it’s basic jealousy at all the achievements I see in other people’s children, perhaps it’s because the love we all feel for our kids just reduces us to lumpy piles of clichés that have been used too many times.
Or maybe I’m lazy. Entirely possible.
On this, Charlie’s third birthday, however, I feel overcome with the urge to commemorate, to mark the occasion, and, of course, to reminisce a little. Quick quiz: how many commas can I fit into one sentence? That last one was a doozy.
Charlie’s birthday was the most frightening day of my entire life. It wasn’t the fear of a final exam you haven’t prepared for, or the acute fear of watching a a horror movie. Instead, it was as if an icy cloud had settled in around me and not one thing mattered: not the needle they jabbed in my arm, not the bigger one aimed at my spine, not the strangers ordering me to get undressed and asking the last time I ate. Nothing.
The sicker Charlie became, the more the fear spread. By the time he came home, it covered every inch of my life and I was consumed with self-pity and dread. I didn’t know what my future held, but it was hard to see how it would be good. Optimism and joy seemed inaccessible.
These days I am so amazed at the tiny person that is Charlie. Is he perfect? Not by the world’s standards. Luckily, I’ve realized that these standards are false and imaginary. I don’t know who created these ideas, but believe me, perfection isn’t a requirement for fulfillment or happiness.
You see, there’s Charlie. Sparkling, beautiful, straight-from-heaven Charlie. Always so happy to see you. How could you ever be scared or worried about an angel like that? This tiny, but whole human being who loves cheesy top 40 music, Mexican rice and beans, and his brand-new wheelchair. A person who lives fully, feels deeply, and asks so little. Away from him, I am incomplete. How could he have ever frightened me? How did I not welcome him with joyous arms?
Simply because I did not see him.
I know better now.
Happy Birthday, Little Man.