I’ve hesitated on writing this post because I knew it would be raw and emotional. So far I have managed to keep things light and fun, but sometimes a story just begs to be told. So I may have to pause along the way to wipe away a tear or two, but here we go. When I was a freshman in college I fell hopelessly in love. I was reckless, wild and free spirited. I had always been the model child who did as I was told, made the honor roll, and said yes ma’am and no ma’am. But my spirit longed to be unleashed, and I met a boy who did just that. Well, we weren’t very careful, and I found myself pregnant. I was a cliche if ever there was one. Good girl gets pregnant out of wedlock. Despite whispers, disapproving glances, and words of disappointment, I married that sweet boy, and we had a little girl who changed our lives.
“You’ll never graduate from college.” “You’ve ruined your life. What were you thinking?” Well Paige helped me prove everyone wrong. I finished college in two and a half years, loading up with extra classes, taking summer classes, and working full time to make sure the little princess didn’t go without, just because I had been irresponsible. If I’m honest, I don’t think I would have gotten my act together if it hadn’t been for that tiny person. There were days when she came to campus with me, having lunch on the lawn with friends while I took an exam, or bringing her puppy for everyone to see while I turned something in to a professor. And when she wasn’t with me, her picture dangled from a key chain reminding me why finishing school was so important. I would look at her chubby little face smiling out at me, and I would remember the cockroaches that crawled across my belly at night while I was pregnant. I wanted better than that for her. I needed to do this for Taylor Paige.
Two and a half years later I walked across that stage and received my college degree with my baby and her daddy watching. I had done it despite everyone’s doubts, and I was going to continue to conquer this big world with Paige by my side. We were growing up together, and she was watching me. I couldn’t let her down.
Time was unkind to Paige and me. It has a habit of sneaking up, and stealing what doesn’t belong to it. My family had grown to include a sweet baby brother for Paigie Girl, and then the world stole our daddy. He went out for a motorcycle ride, went around a curve, and hit a tree. He was gone. I remember looking at my pastor and asking, “What will I tell my kids?” I was having a hard time processing this, how would they possibly be able to? Jackson was almost two, and Paige was five. This was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life, and I felt completely and utterly lost. From across the room a tiny blond girl walks up to me. She picks up my hands, places her small hands around mine, peers into my eyes and asks, “Daddy is dead isn’t he Mama?” I begin to sob, and slowly nod my head. She very gently says, “It’s ok. You still have me. I will take care of you.” And she did. And she does. EVERY DAY. Our bond had always been close, but now we were an inseparable force. We were determined to stand up against the storms of this world together. If you tangle with one, you tangle with both.
Time passed, and as it does, it dulled the pain of loss. I don’t think you ever totally move on from loss, but you learn a new normal, and you find a new sense of happy… I married again, and added another little guy to the family. Paige mothered him as if he were her own. There were birthdays, family vacations, school dances, and so many happy memories. But when the tough times came, Paige was always the first to rush to my side. She has always had this uncanny ability to sense when my heart needed her most.
During Paige’s junior year in high school my husband deployed for 7 months. So many said, “You’re strong. This will be a walk in the park for you. You’ve endured much worse.” Well it wasn’t, and there were days I just wanted to hide under the covers and cry. Paige would walk in, pull back the covers, and tell me to get up. She would even invite me to dinner or a movie. 4 weeks into the deployment I was put in the hospital with 4 kidney stones. Any military wife can tell you that’s just the way it goes in our lives, but it still seemed like terrible timing. Paige was only 16, but she sat with me at the hospital, helped with meals for the boys, grocery shopping, and getting the boys to school until family could arrive to take over. And then at Thanksgiving when I was too sad to go pick out a Christmas tree because Pete would still be in the desert, she fired up the Suburban, and told me to get in. We were going to get a tree.
Now on mornings when my brain just isn’t functioning she makes my coffee, hands me my lunchbox, and sends me on my way. I know one day she will have to move out and live her own life. And I’ll be honest, I don’t know what I will do. It will be like someone cut off my arm. I will be lost, lonely, and feel like I lost a part of myself, maybe even the best part. Sometimes she asks me, “Did you ever feel like I was a mistake?” “No, you saved me from myself. You are my accidental blessing.”
Paige, I know you will read this, because you are my biggest fan. We have traveled through the darkness, and always found the light hand in hand. When your walking shoes feel one size too small, and you’re tempted to lace up the running shoes, and run in the opposite direction…just reach out. Let me catch you, and lead you back to the sun. I love you…