Today is the first day of my girl's senior year. Like most parents who've watched their kid grow up in the blink of an eye, I just can't believe it. Soon, sooner than I care to admit, when my girl wakes up in the morning and hops out of bed, the bed won't be in our house. When she grabs breakfast, the Lucky Charms won't come out of our cabinet; the 2% milk won't come out of our fridge. She'll be somewhere in our beautiful state away at college.
Thinking about her in this way–gone, starting a new chapter on a campus somewhere–makes me teary-eyed. And it makes me thrilled. Memories surface. How can they not? Memories of other mornings when she should have awakened safe and warm in her bed, in our home, but didn't. Memories of mornings before the start of high school when I couldn't know if she was safe, when there was nothing to do but wait and wonder and worry. Was the treatment she was receiving helpful? Did the people there care about her? Would they give her a hug if she needed one? Could they help her want to stay alive?
The journey wasn't short or easy. She returned home to our joy and our fear, surrounded by a treatment team that took every one of those first steps right beside her. As did her dad and I. Three years ago her first day of high school was such a triumph. But we still had no idea if we'd done enough, if the plan was enough, if the help was enough, or if she was caught in the eye of the hurricane that could, at any moment, lift her up and whisk her out of our lives forever.
I have an inconceivable amount of gratitude for everyone involved in her treatment, even the ones of mediocre talent. We learned from them, too. This last first day of school is a testament to hope and healing, to strength and courage, and even to despair. It's a testament to teamwork, and to love that was challenged and sustained. And to forgiveness, on her part and ours. I know some of the success is due to luck, chemistry that took to medication and genes that were able to respond to ministrations. I'm grateful for our luck. I'm grateful for her hard work and for ours. Though I try to stay grounded in the present, I'm grateful to have the "normal" fears, excitements, and trepidations of any parent whose child is preparing to leave home to go away to school.
I will watch my girl take her first steps into a future, one that her complicated past will define only as much as she wants it to.