Daddy’s Little Girl

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by Joe Mudd on May 28, 2011

Today is Sarah’s birthday. And yes, as the title says, she’s daddy’s little girl. My little princess. Always has been, always will be.

She was born the day after our first wedding anniversary. In fact, we spent our first anniversary at the hospital. Debbie’s water broke early that morning, so we spent the entire day at the hospital waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

Sarah refused to share her future birthday celebrations with our anniversary. So she didn’t come out until she could have a day of her own.

On her first day Sarah was giving the world the raspberries.

She’s been in command since day one.

Can She Really Be Relate To Me?

Sarah has always seemed to have a purpose. She’s known what she wanted to do and she planned her life to get to that goal.

On her very first day of life in the outside world she was telling us all about it. Her English left a bit to be desired, but she was just jabbering up a storm.

And giving the world the raspberries.

I’ve always had this feeling that someone with a much higher pay grade than me, had plans for my little girl.

Her focus and attention to details has always amazed me.

I’ve often wondered how someone with such mastery of the details could really be related to me. That’s just the complete opposite to my chaotic, helter-skelter approach to life. My grade school teachers told my parents I was the absent-minded professor. I’m guessing she must have gotten it from her momma.

Sarah’s Systems

When she was moving away from home for the first time, to start school at Belmont University in Nashville, her grab-the-details-by-the-horns, get it done personality was on full display.

Sarah had all her stuff neatly packed in identical boxes. Each was numbered. To round out this system, she had nice Excel spreadsheets to let her know just which numbered box to open to find what she was after at unpacking time.

During her recent move from Texas to South Carolina, she refined this system to include color coding of the boxes.

Our kids had to help with the household chores as they grew up with us. Sarah did the supper dishes. She’d get frustrated with Debbie and me when we’d take the dirty dishes from the table and just place them in any open spot on the countertop. She’d tell us we were, “Messing up my system!” Those dirty dishes had to be placed in just a certain spot on the counter, in the proper order.

Sharing Her Special Day

I’ve always been proud of “my favorite daughter.”

But I also worry about her.

All those years ago, when Debbie’s birthing parts were trying to squirt Sarah out into the world, she held on to Debbie’s insides with all her might, and refused to be ejected until she could have her own day. One she didn’t have to share with other family events.

Richard and Sarah.

I'm not sure which one did the makeup work here.

But that’s changed now.

On this day two years ago we had to call her with the news of her baby brother’s death.

That was one hell of a birthday present there Richard.

So now she’s always going to have that reminder on her birthday, that Richard is dead, and he won’t be eating anymore of her ice cream and cake.

A Natural Born Big Sister

Sarah took on the big sister role with total relish.

She was intent on showing her little brother the ways of life and leading him along the proper path.

At one point she tried to give him piano lessons. That turned out to be a frustrating experience for her. Richard wasn’t much of a sit still and practice kind of kid. I don’t remember him ever showing much interest in music.

We live “in the country.” There aren’t a lot of houses close by. As a result, Richard and Sarah were playmates.

They got along. Mostly.

Certainly Sarah’s more serious nature, and her often bossy big sister approach, clashed with Richard’s laid back, goof off and have fun attitude (I’ve never doubted that Richard was my kid).

It was pretty obvious that they loved one another.

They were also classmates. Both Richard and Sarah were homeschooled until they got to high school.

After Sarah reached driving age and got her license, she got to pick up the chore of taking her little brother to school and picking him up after classes every day.

Typical Siblings

In their teen years they were typical siblings. They loved one another, but also fought like cats and dogs at times.

Richard was a guy.

Can you tell they're brother and sister?

He went to an all male high school. He played sports. Guys like to tease their friends. Make fun of them, and try to have a good laugh at their expense. The trick is to not let it bother you. Just turn it around and tease back. It’s a give and take, back and forth way to have some fun and, while it often sounds mean spirited to many – mostly females – it’s how guys bond.

And Richard liked to tease his big sister.

Sarah would always try to play the game. She’d tease back at Richard. But Richard was a pro. He always had a comeback. And as the back and forth pokes progressed Sarah would end up getting her feelings hurt. And she’d get mad.

This would usually end with Sarah stomping up the stairs, the slamming of her bedroom door providing the final exclamation point on the argument.

Yet they loved one another.

I know Richard looked up to his big sis. I think he admired her. She was a tough act to follow. But he didn’t want to let her know this.

That would have changed with time. It was beginning to change already. But time ran out.

Does she now feel bad about these teenage sibling battles with her little brother? I don’t know. We don’t talk about it. I don’t really know how to bring up the subject of her brother’s death, and how she’s dealing with it. Some of the books I’ve read have had accounts from siblings of a lost child. Many of them felt guilty about the arguments they’d had.

I hope Sarah doesn’t feel that way. That’s just typical sibling behavior. She loved him and he loved her. Besides, Richard started most of it. He did like to aggravate.

Celebration or Sadness?

This has been an important day in our family for many years now.

Sarah’s birth brought great changes for me. There was now another person, in another generation, that shared my genetic code. Wow.

I got to experience that complete and total acceptance and love that a child has for their parents.

My little girl took care of her daddy. Always available to put a band-aid on my cuts and scrapes, or to rub lotion on my feet when they were cracked and sore. She also provided a nicely itemized bill of services when my treatment was complete – very professional.

She’s made me a better person. She’s a gift from God. Her birthday is a big deal for me. It’s a day for celebration.

Now this date is also connected to the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. This date is blasted into the granite marker at Richard’s grave.

So I have a choice to make. Will this day be a time to celebrate my wonderful daughter, or will it be a time to mourn an unbearable loss?

We didn’t ask for this situation. It was just thrust on us. How we deal with it is a choice.

I’m intending to celebrate this day every year. We still have a life to live. I’m still grateful for the gift Sarah has been and continues to be. Letting sadness cloud that would be another tragedy.  Yep, it will be a challenge at times. But Richard’s death doesn’t change my love for Sarah. I owe it to her to honor her importance in my life.

I’ll never forget what’s been lost, but I still have a lot.

Happy Birthday sweet daughter. I love you.

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