Today, my youngest daughter became a teenager.
I don’t post this just to honor that special being who blessed my life 13 years ago today. Instead, I post this to tell a story, as is often my want.
Gianna was born a premie. and as such had what we were told was “retraction”. When she would inhale, her not-quite-fully-developed lungs would contract, making it impossible for her to get a full inhalation. Having been blessed with the instant love a Dad feels for his daughter, my joy went to worry instantly as we could only spend a few short moments with her before she was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
What I got to see from there was the pure glory of a human spirit untouched by human ideas, or human conditioning, or human teachings. I watched my little girl fight like hell for life, and for the way she wanted to live it. She’d tear out the feeding and ventilation tubes the staff had put in her, rid herself of the IV, and fight anyone who dared violate her space to put them back in. My little girl was, and still is, a fighter, and to watch that little being not only survive, but say to the world, “ON MY TERMS”, inspires me to this day.
She would fight the doctors so hard, they finally said, “if you can get her to eat, no more feeding tube.” They were exhausted, and she had exhausted them. Well, she ate, and ate, and then ate some more. Never had I felt so happy watching a child eat.
A few days later that Lioness came home. Needless to say to those of you who know her, she’s always been a sweet and strong girl. She doesn’t suffer fools, but she’s nice to them. She doesn’t like to be told what to do, but she’ll listen to counsel. When she makes up her mind that fierce determination I got to watch for the first 10 days of her life comes out, and she not only stands tall in her conviction but lives with the consequences.
I am not blessed just because this girl, this young woman, is my daughter. I am blessed because of who this girl, this young woman, is. She blesses me with her truth, even when that truth reminds me she’s still very young. She blesses me with her strength which, humbly, reminds me of me. She blesses me with her compassion (she is a devout vegetarian because she could never hurt an animal), her kindness, and her determination. She blesses me with her fierce adherence to who she is, and her unwavering passion for living the life she, and no one else, wants to live.
She blesses me with the world “Dad.”
Gianna doesn’t like words, despite her sometimes rambling, never-ending sentences (as her brother and I call them, sometimes telling her, “breathe, Gianna, breathe!”). When I tell her I love her, she replies with “thank you”. She doesn’t say words like “I love you” often, but she doesn’t have to. I know she loves me when she lays with me to watch a movie, or sits with me to have a chat, or tells me her stories, or when I come home and she has cleaned up a bit. She tells me she loves me with her smile, or when she tells me my jokes are corny, or my music “old school”, or when she decides to simply tell me that I am old. She’ll hug me, but it is usually that side hug that will let me know she loves me, but that she is going to decide how she expresses it.
I absolutely love my girl. Completely and without question. She never offends me, and I never want her to change. That was a decision I made 13 years ago when she was doing her thing, her way, with the determination I adore. In those days, I swore I would protect her with my life if necessary, and be the best I could be every day I had with her. I would defend her right to live her life, and help foster in her the awareness that could guide her in her way, not in mine.
My Gianna, my sweet, adorable Gianna. One of my proudest moments was when I blessed the world with you, a moment that has never ended.