My Dearest Ariana,
A couple of months ago, my youngest child, your “sissy” Riley, was doing her daily workout, which consists of basketball ball-handling drills, planks, abdominal crunches, and pushups. You watched intently as she did one hundred pushups.
A couple of minutes later, as I was straightening up on the kitchen, I looked out into the living room, and my eyes filled with tears. You were trying,unsuccessfully, to do a push-up. “Look at me Daddy. I’m doing a push-up!”
The tears came because I remember your rough start to life. When you were three weeks old, seizures and strokes nearly took you from us. Upon your release from Riley Hospital, we were given a grim prognosis: you would never walk or talk, would be bedridden. Well, Ariana, you have proven, time and time again, that they were wrong. You walk. You talk, quite a lot! However, your life is not without its challenges. You wear a brace on your left leg to keep your knee from hyperextending. Sometimes, you wear a brace on your left hand to keep your hand from balling up into a fist. You have limited use of your left arm, and are rarely able to straighten it out on your own.
Sometimes my tears are tears of amazement – amazement at how far, you – our very own little miracle of a girl – have come. Other times, like when I am watching you try to do something you may never be able to do, the tears are a product of my frustration and sadness with the hand you were dealt. You were an infant and didn’t ask for or do anything to cause what happened to you. But you’ll have to deal with these challenges for the rest of your life.
It’s when the tears of frustration are welling up in my eyes that I have to take a step back and put things in perspective. Some days this is fairly easy. Other days, like when I’m not feeling particularly emotionally fit, I really struggle. What I often forget is that you have never known anything different. The everyday struggle is your normal. Over the years, this struggle has turned you into a strong and resilient little girl,one who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “can’t.”
Recently, we took a day trip to western Indiana to visit Shades State Park, known for its sandstone rock formations, steep ravines, and waterfalls. We decided to hike the two most rugged trails in the park, knowing that we would have to carry you at least part of the way. As we made our way up and down the deep ravines, carved out over thousands of years by streams, you never once needed us to carry you. We would suggest the easiest way around an obstacle, and you, in typical Ariana fashion, would take the more difficult route, insisting, when we would ask if you needed help, “No, I’m fine.”
It is in these moments that I beam with pride, and know that, despite what you have been through, you will be fine. Your stubborn, thick-headed attitude toward life has and will continue to serve you well as you grow into a young woman. You told me a couple of weeks ago, “Daddy, I want to be a doctor when I grow up.” “That’s awesome!” I said. We bumped fists and smiled at each other. And I truly believe that if you want to become a doctor, you will. You will run bull-headed through any obstacles that stand in your way, and will be successful at whatever you choose to do.
Here we are. September 30th. It’s your 5th birthday. Happy Birthday! You’ve been a part of our lives for 5 years, and I can’t imagine life without you. You serve as an inspiration to your family, friends, and to those who are blessed to meet you. You are Inspiration Every Day!