There’s a song I love to listen to while I walk or run with my dogs at night – even after 8 p.m. – by U.S. country group Rascal Flatts. I don’t listen to them a lot, nor am I familiar with the rest of the contents of their catalogue, but this one song really resonates with me. It’s called ‘My Wish,’ and it’s a lovely tune that I sing at the top of my lungs as I walk down the street. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard me at some point.
The song has long made me think of my own children, and on my daughter Gabrielle’s 16th birthday, I felt like now was an excellent time to share that with her – and you, dear readers. Of course, if you know us, you know very well almost no one calls her Gabrielle. So, Bella? Happy Birthday, baby.
I hope your days come easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
I never considered we would get here. I never thought for a second that the hospital would let me leave with you. I resigned myself to the notion that at any moment, they were going to come, swoop down on our apartment on Saint-Antoine W. and take you away because I didn’t believe, or consider, that I could be responsible for a human life.
Hell, I could barely manage my own existence. I had just turned 28 years old. And my world came second from that moment on.
With your infectious smile, your crystal-blue eyes and your busy nature, you were everything we could have hoped for.
You were a miracle from the start. Your energy, your activity, your curiosity, and your interest in just about everything this world has to offer was evident from day 1. Like your father, you love to interact with others. You love to be around people and you always, always loved to play.
When you’re faced with a choice and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you
You will always be special to me not just because you were my first born and my only daughter but because I chose to stay home with you until you were old enough to go to day care. I remember the first day your mother went to work and I stayed home with you. You were four months old.
After half an hour, you looked at me and we started to play. After an hour of playing, you played some more and some more and some more until you yelled at me because you were hungry. After you ate, you wanted to sleep, but one of the great things about you was that you wouldn’t sleep ANYWHERE but in my arms in the rocking chair while I watched TV. I watched A LOT of TV that year.
That’s where you slept, pretty much. There, or in the car. While it was moving. As I drove it. I didn’t have use of my hands while you were sleeping for almost a year. And you know what? I didn’t care.
The day you were born was the day my life really began. Anything and everything I knew up to that point became secondary, and as I have watched you grow up, I have never quite forgotten that feeling – that feeling of complete and utter vulnerability I felt for the tiny thing you were, and the pride in watching you become what you are today.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to be in life until you came along. Then, it all sort of fell into place. It all started to make sense. Hell, I even loved awful dad jokes long before anyone had ever coined the term. Being your dad has brought me immeasurable joy, a fair amount of frustration, a shit-ton of eye-rolls and so many laughs, I can’t even begin to tell you. Your joy is my joy. Your pain is my pain – and as long as I live that’s unlikely to change.
Not now. Not ever.
And when one door opens to another door’s closed
I hope you keep on walking ‘till you find a window
You will face challenges along the way in life. You will know pain, hurt, disappointment and heartbreak. I hope that life brings you everything it has to offer – because I know that you’re ready for it.
I held you when you were sad. I wiped your tears when you cried and patched you up when you hurt yourself. Which was a lot. Holy crap, was it a lot. I felt your pain and wished I could take it from you. I knew, finally, what it meant to value someone more than I valued myself – and I hope you might one day feel that same joy in purpose.
I was there for you when you were down, but you have never let yourself be defeated
There’s so much to love about you that I don’t know where to begin. Your utter kindness. Your inner glow. Your delight in living all that life has to offer. Your smile. Your generosity and enthusiasm. Your intellect and your smile. God, that smile.
And when it’s cold outside
Show the world the warmth of your smile
Bu more than anything. Yeah, more than anything
Watching you run and vault at WimGym in your first sports experience was the beginning of your love affair with moving, running jumping and playing. You tried and liked soccer and were excellent at it, much as you were with other early loves such as swimming, diving, water-polo and – ugh that, hair gelatin – synchronized swimming.
But nothing turned your crank like being on the ice. From the moment your strapped metal blades on, you were at home. The ice was, is, and I hope it remains forever, your happy place and your salvation.
Watching you grow into a good ringette player who inspired her teammates and simply would not be denied at times – four goals against Pierrefonds in a 5-4 provincial semifinal win in 2017 comes to mind – and watching you grow into a dominant hockey player with sights set on U.S. college play and Olympic competition after that fills me with joy, not because you happen to be good, but because you love it so much and it makes you so very happy.
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
I hope your dreams stay big
Your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can haul
I know that you will follow your dreams, but I also want you to know that anything you want in this world is in your grasp. You have the intellect to do any job, have any career and spend your days precisely the way you want.
But I’m warning you, it will not come easy. But hard work is its own reward—and it’s one of those great rewards that comes with others along the way.
And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re gettin’ to,
Know somebody loves you
And wants the same thing, too
Yeah, this is my wish
I’ve come to understand the days of you holding my hand as we go someplace are likely over. I’ve come to grips with the fact that you have a boyfriend and that he treats you with the care and respect you deserve. I’m past the notion that you are no longer a little girl, but like so many fathers who have come before me, you’re MY little girl, and you will always be my baby. I don’t want you to move away. I don’t want you to leave home. I don’t want you to uproot your life in pursuit of your dreams , or of love, or of happiness, but I will always be here for you to support you and love you, no matter how far away you are.
I NEED for you to do those things. I need for you to have experiences. I didn’t have a lot of experiences when I was younger, and I want you to be able to say you have done everything you ever wanted to in life.
I hope you never look back but you never forget
About the ones who loved you and the place you lived
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
If there’s one thing about you, though, that I’m MOST proud of?
It’s that you are an exceptionally kind human being who goes out of her way to make others feel loved and valued. You never left anyone out and you made everyone feel welcome, even if it was in the basement in the summer. At my house. Loudly. At 1 a.m.
Oh you find God’s grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
I know that anyone who has ever been around you know that you give everything you can to whomever needs it. Your mother and I, Kim and Jesse, your grandparents on both sides of the family, your sports teammates, your classmates, your hockey coaches, your friends and even people who don’t know you are now aware that kid, you’re pretty great.
My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big
Your worries stay small
That you never have to carry more than you can haul
And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re getting’ to
Know that somebody loves you,
And wants the same thing, too
Yeah. This is my wish for you, Bella.
Happy 16th Birthday.