I can’t believe that you just turned 22. It seems like just yesterday when we were told that we were expecting. I was flat on my back in the hospital. I had run over some wires left by Central Maine Power. One of the wires shot back like a missile and went through my leg wrapping around my tibia and fibula. It took the doctors a couple of hours to get them out in surgery. Your mother was milking the cows at the time and I remember hopping into your Mimi and Papa’s house and asked Mimi to pull it out. Your grandmother was so funny running around the house looking for her purse so she could rush me out to the hospital!
I will never forget the night that we went in to have you. I had sent your mother in for a hot bath, candles, a book, and a wine cooler. I had read that people in Europe often did this for their wives when they were due to deliver their babies. A couple of hours later, she told me she was having what she felt were gas pains. When I asked her, “Just how far apart are those gas pains?” We decided together that they were actually contractions and that we ought to get you to the hospital. In the early hours of January 29th, the snow was falling more gentle than I think I have ever seen it. It was cold, and peaceful.
Nine hours after those “gas pains” began we had a “whoops I was wrong” from the doctor who wore his Mickey ears that we had brought home two weeks earlier from Anaheim, California. (We had won the trip for being Maine’s Young Farmer’s of the Year.) The doctor had been telling us all through the pregnancy that you were a boy, but instead we got the most beautiful baby girl in the world. I became the proudest father in the world. At that time, I now had a very beautiful son and two of the most gorgeous baby girls I had ever seen. I felt so proud and there was nothing that could make me more proud.
Two weeks after we brought you home, we ended up in the hospital with your sister. She fell down the feed hole in the floor of the barn landing on the concrete floor, fracturing her skull. This meant that you had to share our bed with your sister when your mom nursed. Not to be left out, that meant your brother also had to join us in the water bed. Looking back on it now, our family bed captivated some of the most special times we had while you kids were young.
Your mother was a hostess at a local restaurant at the time, and shortly afterward, returned to teaching. This meant that I got to babysit a lot. One of the funniest early memories was when your siblings drew on your head with marker. You were a fairly easy baby, as you were often entertained by your brother and sister. You weren’t bothered at all!
You also weren’t helpful at mealtime. While your siblings would drink formula in a pinch, you would not. In fact, you would fill your cheeks and blow it back at me, time after time. It apparently was a taste in which you wanted no part of, and it was not going to be in your diet. You definitely had, and continue to have, your own spin on the way that you were going to do things. That is one of the things that makes you so special.
You loved to toddle after your older brother and sister. Matthew (5 years older) was particularly helpful, getting you out of your crib and bringing you to the barn. One day we asked him to show us how he got you out of bed and he proceeded to show us. It wasn’t pretty, but you never cried. It was absolutely precious watching him hug you while pulling you up and out of your crib, while landing you on your feet. Then he’d put you in your boots, put on your coat, and bring you out to us!
When you were 2 years old, you were quite a handful. We couldn’t take you anywhere. Restaurants were especially challenging. One time when you were having one of your fits, you threw your fork up in the air and it went flying into a neighboring guests mashed potato. More than once either your mother or I had to take you out into the car kicking and screaming, making us so very proud, while your siblings finished their meal.
When you were 4, we signed you up for dance in an attempt to civilize you. One day your mother carried you out in a football hold because you didn’t get your way. You were always so very cute all dolled up in your dance outfits, but was a regular Tasmanian Devil under them. Eventually you grew out of your unpleasant stage and were a joy to be around, always bringing a smile to my face, even on the darkest of days.
Everything was precious to you. Remember Wormy, when I was building the deck? He was a tiny caterpillar that inched across a board while I was building the deck. When I pounded in nails to attach the board to the frame, the boards bounced, which caused the caterpillar to fly up in the air and out of sight. We must have searched for that thing for 30 minutes while you were wailing about how I was “trying to kill” your newly found friend.
When you were 7, we sent you to Camp FAir Haven. I don’t know if it was you or your sister who wrote and said, “Dear Dad, I love you but I don’t miss you.” It was there that you learned to swim, do archery, ride horses, do crafts, and really socialize with other kids your age. You would have been fine if we had dropped you off on day one and picked you up 2 months later. You didn’t seem to miss home or us at all.
I loved helping you memorize your AWANA verses, and being one of the leaders while you kids were little. Do you remember the AWANA Olympics? Many churches in the central Maine area would all get together and we would compete for the gold, just like the real Olympians. It was always a crazy day of events and one thing that always impressed me was that no matter if we won or lost, we came home having a great attitude and anxiously talking about what next year would hold. All three of you kids lived for the AWANA program, the people, and the games. You always loved the competition of trying to memorize the most verses.
I remember watching you play field hockey, softball, and cheer. But most of all, I loved to watch you dance. You and your sister used to put on dance shows and practice your acrobats in the living room. I remember making you a practice room upstairs after your brother moved to Florida. You both would dance for hours on the hardwood floors we put in for your tap shoes. For years we would be downstairs listening to the tapping of your shoes as you would practice your routines in preparation for the long-awaited dance recital every Spring. You were truly happy when you danced, and all of the other stuff just seemed to melt away.
I remember when your Mom would take all of you kids on her very own “Summer School” field trips that she researched out for you. I remember getting home from work and having all of you talking at once about how much fun you had on each particular trip. Looking back on them now, I realize just how much I missed out on, and should have been a part of.
I loved playing on the trampoline with you kids and making you pop like popcorn. I truly loved to hear you all belly laugh. It is a real wonder that we didn’t ever have any real serious accidents on that thing.
One of the best times we had, was when your German Exchange Student, Jana, came from Germany, and we got to canoe down the St Croix river together. Camping out was so much fun and canoeing for eight hours every day was simply breathtaking. The people were great and the food was even better. Who would have ever thought that we could make a cheese cake in the middle of the woods over an open fire and a bed of ashes?
Then you got to go to Germany to visit Jana after your dance competition in Pennsylvania. Your Mom and I got lost in Newark and was glad I had talked her into buying a GPS at a huge Cabella’s store. We are still using that same GPS today.
You are our free spirit. You are always the one trying desperately to not make waves and have everyone just live in harmony. Your heart is so good, and is your very best attribute. If the world were full of others that loved as deeply as you, we would all be living in harmony, and not in the total disarray that we have in our society today. You bring out the very best in everyone honey and I wish for you this day, that you never lose sight of all that you have to offer. Hold on to your sense of right and wrong, and always know that you make my days brighter. It is your awesome sense of loyalty and love that you portray every day that defines you. Please don’t ever lose that.