My daughter is 18 today.
She was my first baby – my first experience feeling totally unprepared and incompetent. My husband and I were young – 23 and 21 – and it was trial by fire.
Her first week at home was spent wrapped in a glowing blanket to ward off jaundice. She lost the yellow but then gained 10 weeks of colic. We walked her; we swung her; we rocked her. We did it together.
As she got older, we – like all new parents, I suppose – were certain she was a prodigy. She said her first word at 6 months, could entertain us with a litany of animal sounds at 12 months and spent hours at a time engrossed in books at 18 months.
Sweet and smart as she was, there was then the demanding stage and the sneaky stage and the destructive stage. There was diagnosis after diagnosis until Asperger’s was the one that stuck. We walked that road together, my husband and I.
And then he was gone.
Two days after her 8th grade graduation, he left us. She came home from the ceremony and showed him her parting gift and other goodies. He stared at her graduation certificate. I wish I knew what he was thinking. Was he proud? Was he sad? Was he so oxygen-deprived at that point that he was neither? I don’t know, but then he was gone.
The transition to high school was horrendous. Wrapped in grief and overwhelmed by the newness of it all, we plodded through the school year. I sent emails. I made calls. I spent hours in the car taking her to school and counselors and doctors. I did it alone.
And then, a beautiful thing happened. My daughter bloomed into a confident, articulate person who has seemingly found her place in the world. She has hit so many amazing milestones in the past few years. She has grown so much. And I feel like no one is here to witness it but me.
My daughter is 18 today, and I am struggling with that. Not because she’s so old or I’m so old.
I’m struggling because there is no one here to turn to and high-five and say, ‘we did it.’ There is no one else who is invested in her the way I am.
I have fabulous friends. I could text them. I could email them. I have no doubt they would warmly respond. I have no doubt they would share in the joy of her accomplishments. But no one would feel it the way I do…the way her father would.
After nearly 4 years, the truth is this still hurts like hell.
The loss, the emptiness….it’s a space I can’t seem to fill. It still floors me that after all this time, the grief can take my breath away. That it can feel like someone has sucked all the air out of my lungs and placed bricks on my chest.
My daughter is 18 today, and all I feel is alone.