If you look around, my dear Hailey, you will not notice me there. You might be mad at me for the entirety of the party, but this letter will explain everything.
I write to you from my hospital bed, clad in an itchy, crunchy paper gown that leaves little to the imagination. My heart goes out to you, my darling, on your eighteenth birthday.
Eighteen years ago, when I brought you into this world, you came kicking and screaming.
I knew then that you inherited the spunk that I have been so proud to have wielded.
Looking into your beady blue eyes as the nurse placed you all bundled up in a fleece blanket on my chest, all of the weariness I was experiencing from six hours of labor just melted away. When your little hand circled my finger, I felt a surge of love so strong, it brought me to tears. You were blind then, but I had a feeling you could see right through me.
You grew up to be a child not so different from who I once was. I remember once taking you to the toy department to buy you your first Barbie. Instead of going to the girls section, you dragged me straight to the display of Lego. I had a good laugh over that. You were always different, Hailey, always one step ahead of the other children. You marched to the beat of your own drum and I was proud of you for it. I still am.
When you started middle school, we started having our misunderstandings.
You were growing up and I was in denial. I didn’t want my youngest girl to leave me just too soon. I’m sorry if I came across too harsh and reprimanding whenever you wore a skirt that was too short or when you scraped off the peanut butter off your celery because you were feeling fat.
You were blossoming and becoming aware of the attention that you were receiving from the opposite gender. I couldn’t blame you for acting the way you did- taking thirty minutes in the shower perfecting your eyeliner, applying your lip gloss repeatedly to get shade just right, ignoring the clothes that I bought you because they were too babyish for your taste.
I remember when we were having lunch in our favorite diner when your crush at the time, Philip, came in with a few of his buddies. You were having a full burger and fries set but as soon as you saw them come in, you pushed your plate away and said you weren’t hungry.
I didn’t insist. I didn’t want to risk embarrassing you in front of the object of your affections.
I wish you understood then that true beauty lies in being yourself.
But enough of the past, dear.
When you were a junior, the symptoms started showing. I could feel blinding pain and there’d be blood all over the place. While you were growing up to be a beautiful young lady, this lady was slowly deteriorating into an old, sickly cow.
As soon as I got a proper diagnosis from the doctor, I told your father. I convinced him not to tell both of you girls. There was no point in compromising your lives because I was sick. I wanted to see you and Leila happily living your lives rather than rushing home to attend to me. I wanted you to look at me and see me as your companion- not your patient. I didn’t want you to look at me with pity in your eyes.
I let you know now, Hailey, because just a week ago, the doctor gave me a tentative prognosis and it does not look pretty. I’ll tell you this though, little lady, I’m not done fighting just yet. I want to see you graduate college.
I will not give up until I see you getting walked down the aisle by your father. I want to see you build your family and I want to bounce your future child on my knees.
I’m doing my best.
At this moment, you’re probably with your sister getting ready for your debut.
If I close my eyes, I can see both of you so vividly in my mind, it’s painful. I can imagine Leila helping you frame your face in curls that would cascade all the way down your back. I can see both your smiles.
It’s soothing. I want you to be happy on your special day.
I can picture you, dear, in the powder blue dress that stood out to you out of all the fifteen dresses that you tried on two weeks ago. I can picture the gossamer material enveloping you in an elegance that would not rival your beauty, but work with it.
I can picture your beautiful eyes, lined with kohl and shimmering with the excitement reserved for your special night. You’ll be the object of every young man’s attention tonight. You’ll shine, like you naturally do.
Savor it, Hailey. You only get to be eighteen once.
Walk the dance floor with the grace of a woman that you were meant to be. Stand tall, look straight.
Don’t trip in your four inch heels.
Dance with your father because you won’t get many chances to do that anymore. You’re too big to step on his feet now.
Leave all thoughts of me in your hotel room and have your first glass of champagne for courage.
I’m proud of you, darling.
Enjoy your night and I’ll be at home waiting to tuck you into bed like I once did when you were little.
I was searching through my old journals when I came across a letter that my mother wrote me on my debut. Seeing her familiar curved handwriting was a wall of emotion that hit me straight in the face. Mom did her very best though she did not see my father walk me down the aisle.
I came home that same night only to have found her in her chair, my lego castle in hand, never to breathe again.