February 11

February 11.  A day full of memories.  

For years, I woke up every February 11 with an impending sense of doom.  It should have been a day to look forward to...a day of celebration...but every year for many, many years, some sort of crisis or bad news would occur on or right around Daddy's birthday.  Someone died.  Someone ended up in the hospital (numerous times, actually).   Someone lost a job.  Every year it was something.  Poor Daddy never seemed to have a calm, peaceful birthday.   "What do you suppose will be this year's February 11 disaster?" became  a standing (and not always particularly funny) family joke.  

Seven years ago on February 11, I was released from the hospital, 7 days after arriving there in the back of an ambulance in a snowstorm in the middle of the night, and four days after our 30-week preemie was born and whisked to the NICU.  I still remember being so torn...needing so badly to get home to our other three children, and yet being completely aghast at the thought of leaving our tiny Ammah Grace in a hospital 2.5 hours away from home.  I remember calling Daddy to tell him Happy Birthday and bursting into tears on the phone...at the fact that I had to leave my baby in such uncertain condition, at the fact that Billy was driving to pick me up in a snowstorm, and at the fact that it was Daddy's birthday and we weren't going to be able to celebrate.   He did what he had done best for 35 years....listened, encouraged me, prayed for me, and somehow made me feel better.  I knew that when I got home, there would be a big hug (and probably a few tears :)) waiting for me.  I apologized for the fact that there would be no big birthday celebration for his 70th birthday...to which he replied that the best present he could have was for me to be out of the hospital, and Ammah Grace to be alive and getting the best care possible.   We had no idea that that would be his last birthday...although with the health issues he had been struggling with, there was a tiny wonder in the back of my mind. 

Shortly after that phone call, Billy and I said goodbye to Gracie...one of the hardest moments of my life, despite the fact that we planned to be back 3 days later to visit...and then headed out in the snow to return to Fort Smith.  I remember very little about that trip other than being in pain from my surgery just a few days before, and stopping at Dairy Queen in Conway to eat.  And the snow.  Oh, the snow.  It snowed every. single. trip.  that Billy and I made back and forth while Ammah Grace was in NICU.  Billy and the kids came a few times (while I was staying in LR) that it didn't snow, but every time we made the trip together, it snowed....once so badly that they closed the interstate right behind us as we were leaving Little Rock.  God made His hand of protection *very* evident during that time!!

For all of the sad and crazy memories of February 11, it is still, first and foremost, in my mind, my Daddy's birthday.   The photo above is of a scrapbook page I did years ago, using a picture from Daddy's first birthday. Here is the journaling...

"When I look at this picture of my daddy on his first birthday, I wonder--'Did anyone ever think?'   On that first birthday, did anyone ever think you would sit in the top of a chinaberry tree and chunk berries at your little sister?  Did anyone know you would celebrate more than 40 anniversaries (and counting!) with a girl who wouldn't be born for another six years?  Did they plan for you to be singing in church choirs your entire adult life, or be teaching 3rd grade Sunday School at age 69?  Did they know you would pass on to your children your love of classical music and a fiercely competitive spirit in games?  Would anyone looking at you then have guessed that in 60 years your trademark would have been a neatly trimmed white beard?   Could anyone have imagined the impact your strong faith and perseverance through cancer, strokes, and blindness would have on all who know you?  Did anyone know you would have a "Daddy's little girl" who loved you with all of her heart?  I wonder...."  

(I am way behind on birthday posts.  I have been fighting all week with my silly computer in an effort to edit Ammah Grace's birthday pictures.  Hopefully this weekend, I will win the battle and finish her birthday post.  I realized while working on it that I still haven't posted about Peter's, Billy's, or my mom's birthdays...or mine, for that matter!  After I get Gracie's done, I'll work my way backwards, perhaps. :))


Kecia said...

Jennifer, that is so beautiful, and precious. I love that picture of your dad. What a blessing he was to this world. And what a blessing you were to him! Love you-

Marsha Young said...

Jennifer, Thank you for sharing such wonderful - if difficult - memories. God is always faithful.