To my daughter on her 17th birthday:
Happy Birthday! Seventeen years ago I was in the hospital at this time, waiting for you to make your entrance into the world. I was filled with hope and excitement and little bit of fear, as I think all new mothers are at that point. Mostly, though, I was filled with love. It was the only time in my life that I felt such overwhelming love for someone who I had not yet met. I couldn’t wait to be able to hold you in my arms. Now, seventeen years later, I still feel that overwhelming love, and I am still filled with hope. And once more, I can’t wait to be able to hold you in my arms again.
I would so love to know you as the young woman who you are now. It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I’ve seen you in person. When I last saw you, you were still a little girl. A little girl who was hurting and was scared, one that had already had to essentially say goodbye to her father, and that was now losing her mother too. That is way too much for a young teenager to have to deal with, and I am so sorry that you had to go through that.
I want you to know that I don’t blame you for the choices you made. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to watch your mother sink into alcoholism like a rock in the ocean. You were so strong to be able to make the decision to remove yourself from the situation, and I know that you were doing what I wasn’t able to at that time – taking care of yourself. And that meant getting away from me. As hard as it is to admit, I think you did the right thing. It just never occurred to me that our separation would go on this long.
Being away from you these last few years has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through. When I was newly sober, and trying to get my life back together, I didn’t have the emotional strength to reach out to you, to try to rebuild our relationship. My thinking still wasn’t quite right, and I had convinced myself that I would be doing you more harm than good by trying to reconnect with you. I wish now that I had made a different decision. I wish that I had inserted myself back into your life, whether you liked it or not. But my guilt and shame wouldn’t allow me to do that, and things became what they are today.
As you celebrate your birthday today, I hope you know that I am thinking about you. I am remembering all of the good times that we had as you were growing up. I hope that your memories of those times are as happy as mine. Now, I hold onto those stories in my mind like a child holds onto a security blanket. They remind me of what it feels like to be mother, and even though it hurts to know that I lost that privilege some years ago, I love remembering the feeling.
Please know, today and always, that I love you. I miss you so much that I sometimes feel like my heart might stop beating from the pain. I think about you all the time, wondering how you are, what you’re doing, if you are happy. I truly hope that you are. Your happiness, with or without me in your life, is so important to me. It is what I hope and pray for every day.
I also pray for reconciliation for us. I want that more than anything, but I am willing to wait until you are ready. Just know, that all you have to do is say the word, and I will be there with open arms. Until then, I will love you from a distance.
Happy birthday, sweet girl. I love you and miss you terribly.