Today is my youngest daughter Grace's birthday. She turned the big 9 today. Time sure flies. I guess that's pretty cliche thing to say when it's your kid's birthday. So maybe a few words about this child are in order.
She's my fourth and last daughter. Her mom and I met at work back in 1996. I had just been going through the breakup of my second marriage when I met her. We didn't actually date until about a year after that. One of the other girls in the office set us up. Michelle's one of the coolest chicks I have known, always willing to help people to the point of hurting herself and she has a great personality, very funny. We hit it off from our first date which involved entirely too much drinking. It was to be a harbinger of our relationship.
Michelle and I were both partying hard when we were together. When I say party I mean doing hard drugs and drinking like fish. With this lifestyle included all the other things that go hand and hand with this. The people, the places, and the things that go into the life of drug addicts. The only thing that kept us really reigned in was her daughter Nat. I don't know what would became of us if she hadn't been there keeping us somewhat grounded.
With the drugs and drinking started coming the fighting. Whether it was over money, or just one or the other's hallucinations about what was happening things started to break down between us. We had been living together and I left a couple times to get out of the situation but would always cave in and go back. It was becoming a vicious cycle. We lived like this for about 2 years. We also worked together which only aggravated the situation. We were together 24/7.
Around the end of '98 I started to clean up again. I could see that my life was falling apart and I was heading to the end of the road pretty fast. I moved out of Michelle's for the last time and moved in with a friend from the program. Michelle and I saw each other at work and continued to sleep together. Then one day she came up to me and told me she was pregnant. She said that she was going to have an abortion. It would have been her second abortion of one of our children. Please forgive me Lord, I didn't tell her not to have one. I didn't encourage it but I didn't say no. I was more concerned with my own life at the time than having a fourth kid with a third woman. To me, it felt like my life was REALLY being ruined. She told me she was having an abortion and we left it at that.
The next day she called and said that she had talked to her sister. Her sister convinced her to have the baby. Thank you God for your miracles, even if we don't see them at the time. We decided to give our relationship one last shot. That failed miserably. There had been too much pain and hurt on both sides.
The day we broke up it was simply "Look bub, I know you are clean and I don't want to bring you down. You need to be with your friends in NA. I don't want to be with you anymore." I just nodded and left. My heart was broken. Another failed relationship and this one with a baby on the way. I might have only been about a month or so clean at the time. The next year would end up being as rough a time in my life clean as I have ever had. I had to deal with the idiots at work giving me a hard time about why my pregnant girlfriend would break up with me. That's a pretty good shot to a guy's ego. That and trying to stay clean plus having to look at her every day like nothing was out of the ordinary. Thank God I only lost it a couple of times that year. Oh, and I never picked up either. Thanks NA friends!
It was a weird pregnancy for me because I wasn't involved at all with the process. Not doctor's appointments, not picking things out for the baby, just being told things in a cool professional business manner. Like her name. Grace. As much as I love her name today, when I first heard it I was like ugh! Grace. Gracie. Gangstah Gracie. It soundel like a hispanic hyna's name. It was just one more thing that I had to accept.
Grace was born on September 16th, 1999. It was a c-section. I wasn't part of all that. I sat in the waiting room like anyone else. I finally saw my little girl when they brought her to the window for me to see her. I got to hold her and whispered in her ear how much I loved her and how I would always be there for her even if I wasn't with her. Believe me, it was hard knowing that I wasn't going to be an everyday part of her life right from the very start. This is one of those times I think when God was really carrying me even when I didn't know it. How I made it through the next year working with her and dealing with other people seeing my daughter more than me and people partying with Michelle I don't know. It took everything I had to rise above my angerness and bitterness.
I finally quit the company that we worked at together which made things a little bit better. I was busy starting a new business which kept me focused on work and not much else. I'd get Grace every once in awhile the first year. She was just an infant and Michelle didn't want her to be gone for too long. Which I understood. I've never been one to start problems with the mother's of my children. I always figured whatever problems I started with them would just trickle down to my kids. I was really involved in NA at the time and was doing pretty well with work and with life. I even started up 66ohm at this time. I didn't realize this at the time but I was trying to keep myself busy 24/7 so that I wouldn't have time to think about what had just happened. It worked for awhile.
Unfortunately, I picked up again around 2003. The band was going full steam and I was in bars more than I was in NA meetings. I started drinking. Then I ran into my son's mom. Which is a story for another time and place. It's when I re-discovered drugs and fell back into the abyss. I saw Grace less and less frequently. I didn't want her to see me all strung out. I don't even know if I would have had the patience. Michelle wasn't doing much better, but she did the best she could. She was sinking deeper into her disease as well.
I got clean again in 2005. I reconnected with Grace and started getting her more frequently. Then I fell out of contact with them. Michelle was really struggling. I didn't have any way to pick up Grace and Michelle rarely called me back to see if she could bring her over. Then almost a year ago, I called Michelle and she sounded different. She told me she was going to NA and had been clean a week or two. I'll tell you this, Michelle getting clean is one of the biggest miracles I have seen God perform. If I was a betting man (OK, I am a betting man) my money wouldn't have been on the "Michelle gets clean in NA" line. Sadly, I would have chosen the ends up in an institution or dead line. That's just the way it was.
Almost a year later she's still clean. We get along great. Grace comes to church with Letty and I every week and digs it. God has truly worked a miracle in Grace's life. Both her parents clean. Who would have thunk it?
As for Grace, let me tell you a little about her. She has a servant's heart. When I take her to the sunday school program she immediately goes to work. When I come to pick her up she's always working the little redemption store they have in class. She is absolutely sweet and funny. Almost too earnest for a kid that's seen so much. You would think she would have a little more edge to her with parents like us. She doesn't. Her name says it all. Grace. She's full of it. I don't think anything makes me happier than just hanging out with her. I'm at peace.
Holy cow, what a long post. Grace, you are worth it. You always have been worth it. Through everything we've been through my beautiful little daughter I have loved you and only wanted what's best for you. I'm so grateful that God has mended your mom and me so that we can be good parents to you. Well, at least better parents. My heart breaks everytime you leave to go home sweetie. The only hope is that I get to see you the next week. I hope that you have a great birthday honey. I love you!