It has been a journey of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. For my wife and I, as for millions of other parents, the day has finally arrived. Our Daughter, Erynn Sion Quigley, turns 18 years old today. It is such a huge occasion that I’m left defaulting to cliches like, “Where did the time go,” or “She grew up so fast,” or “It seems like only yesterday that…” I default here because it did go by too fast, and she did grow up fast, and it was only yesterday, wasn’t it?
We do this thing every morning of my daughter’s birthday, for every birthday so far, where we retell the story of the day she was born. So I’ll share it with you. On that day in Edmonton it was bitterly cold and the thermometer hit -43. I had been working night shifts and I came home at my usual 6 in the morning and Heather told me that she was feeling like she might be getting close to the time. That morning and day her body began to go through the slow building process of contractions and we, like any first time parents, consulted books and reread our birth class notes and counted contractions until finally we decided to go in to the hospital.
That ride to the hospital was unbelievably cold but we stopped at a convenience store to pick up magazines and snacks and made our way to the hospital. We finally arrived and everything was kind of slow going for awhile there. Heather told me to go get something to eat and I did and then BANG her water broke. I rushed back and my wife was in serious pain, the kind that a man would never know. Eventually the doctors suggested an epidural and then things slowed down again. Over the course of that night we went from boredom to panic to boredom to a rush of wheels and then we were in the Operating Room. The docs decided that the baby had to come out and a C-section was in order.
They tried, both the surgeons and our family doctor at the time, to talk me out of being in the OR but I had to be there to see this miracle of our love come into the world. So our family Doc stood right behind me, in case I passed out, and the surgeon took out the knife. In minutes our daughter was brought out into the cold OR, took her first breath, screamed her head off and flew through the APGAR tests with flying colours. Heather was exhausted but I remember clearly the joy on her face when Erynn was presented to her. I remember feeling so inadequate to the task of being a father. Heather fell asleep quickly in a much deserved rest. I took our daughter, and quite against the rules, began to walk around the wing showing everyone our beautiful little girl. I wanted to show anyone I could this little miracle I held in my arms, I wanted them all to acknowledge that she was the most beautiful baby ever. I wanted to celebrate and dance and share this moment with the entire world. I remember clearly looking at her and saying we will never abandon you and will always love you and we will always be there for everything you need us for.
Flash forward 18 years and I remember the first time she rode her bike without the training wheels, I remember how beautiful she looked for her grade 8 graduation, I remember the pride we felt when she was honoured by Senator Michael Kirby, I remember being frustrated about her not getting homework done, I remember birthday parties, and tears, and hard questions, and so, so much laughter. I remember it all. I remember when our family rallied around her when she was lost and remember our community coming together to support us all. I remember the introduction of new words to our family’s vocabulary like vestibular, Bi-Polar, Hiff Hiff, and relaxable. I remember her sharing her dreams and fears and me silently reciting a a counterpoint of hopes for her. I remember her first day of school and the first time she let me read one of her mature poems. I remember and am grateful for the work my wife has done. Heather worried, and helped with homework, and learned the the intricacies of anime, and heard our girl’s secret wishes.
So now here we are. Happy 18th Birthday Erynn. Happiest of Happy Birthdays. I know you’re worried about what will come and you’re not sure where you’ll end up but your mom and I have faith. Faith in your incredible smarts and your unbelievably generous heart. Faith that you will choose a path that’s right for you, and faith that you’ll arrive where you need to be when you’re ready. You see, we believe in you, whole heartedly, and without reservation. Sure we worry and fuss and hassle you, all parents do, but we know deep down that it will all be ok. We know, deep down, that your character and heart are strong. We know, deep down, that any challenge you face you will be able to meet. And you should know, deep down, that we will always be here for you.
We still have a long path together, the three of us, but it is the best path I have ever walked because you are on it with us. So Happy Birthday little mouse. Your Mom and I are so proud of you and love you so very much. We welcomed you into the world on your birthday and in time, all too short a time, the world will be yours.