As I click away on the computer keys, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Victorious, perhaps. Today, September 18, is our sweet preemie’s fifth birthday.
And I hardly recognize the mom reflected back to me in the mirror these days. She finally learned to live life. Luke has been God’s greatest gift to the family in many ways. Today, we celebrate his life, his tenacity, his love and his lessons. Luke – big guy – this letter’s for you.
Last night, you asked me to “sit in da chair wif you,” just like you do most days. That may very well be the one piece of furniture we never sell. So many nights have been spent rocking you in that chair, from the early days when you screamed for hours, HOURS, after all your hospital stays and surgeries, to sweet bedtime snuggles as of late. Somehow, you just seem to fit in the crook of my arm, your feet pulled in and then we cover you with a blanket. It is my most favorite thing in the world to do with you.
Sit in that chair.
This year you turn five. And, in all these years you’ve been with us, I think it may mark the first time that we don’t have a surgery lingering over us. At least, I hope not. You officially graduated from all your therapies – speech, occupational/feeding and physical. For four years, that Seton building as been our mainstay two, and sometimes three, hours a week. Now we’ll only see Ms. Laurie, Kathy, Stacie and Mindi in HEB. It’s just so strange and awesome, all at the same time. This was you four years ago, struggling to stand with assistance…
And this is you today. A graduate.
You still don’t throw back hamburgers, but your days of intensive feeding therapy are long gone. Mushrooms still aren’t your favorite, but who can blame a guy? Your favorite food, in the whole wide world, is mashed ‘tatoes. Somebody’s living the southern high life. You want nothing to do with milk, but you adore yogurt and cheese so we still manage to get some Vitamin D in you.
If “stinker’ was up for naming rights, I’m pretty sure it would be your first, middle and last name. You cause so much ruckus here, it’s crazy. I’m amazed at how much trouble you and John Paul can generate in two minutes flat. You love to hide from us and I’ll be danged if you aren’t good at it. That sweet little 25-pound frame of yours can hunker down in some pretty tight spaces.
Your favorite toys are cars, trains and balloons. You’ll stop traffic for a smartie and every once in a while I’ve been known to slip you a sip of vanilla Dr Pepper from Sonic. Playing outside, running, jumping and sliding, are all your favorite things. I’m not sure when I’ll put you on a bike. This mom is still incredibly nervous to have you fall. Sorry, bud. When you only have one good kidney and it sits unprotected in your pelvis, I tend to be a worry wart. Your dad says I need to lighten up. I tell him to zip it.
I’m pretty sure you’ve earned a Ph.D in Netflix, Angry Birds and the iPad.
At naptime, you insist we wrap you up like a taco. “It helps me sleep, Mom.”
You have a temper, boy do you ever. But, you usually scream, stomp off to the front door and then two minutes later I feel a pair of arms wrapped tightly around my leg. Then, a sweet little voice says, “I sorry, Mom.” And all is right with the world.
You are funny.
And such a far cry from the little boy I feared would never survive. You sometimes ask what those lines are on your belly. I call them your brave marks. “Not every boy is brave enough to have those lines,” I tell you. You giggle and tell me you’re strong.
Oh, don’t I know that.
It’s interesting, Luke, this life as a preemie mom. For all of my living days, I will carry the trauma of your early years very close to my heart. And I sometimes struggle with what to tell you. In the coming years, I don’t know how we’ll share the Luke story, your story, with you. I suspect it will come in bits and pieces. That God will lead me to share the just right reflection for the just right moment.
So, what do I want to share with you this year?
That you are strong. That even though every kid around you is an entire head taller, ten pounds heavier and with greater fine motor skills – none of them will ever match your fight. Your joy. Your strength. I sometimes catch a glimpse of you and see a young boy emerging. It’s so hard, because I’ve always seen you as my baby. But it’s also so incredibly awesome because I know that you have so much to tell the world.
Build that lego mountain, create that pillow fort, race those cars, sing all those songs. You’ve made it to one whole hand, Luke.
And this momma couldn’t be prouder.