By: Billy Hollems
Today I watched my baby girl’s heart break into a thousand pieces.
My daughter Marisa, who is now nine years old, and coming to the end of the third grade, experienced today a moment in her life she will hold in her memory forever. Several weeks in anticipation, Marisa awaited her annual school field trip to the Zoo. I too, with great anticipation, have been awaiting this moment as well. Every year, since pre-school, I have had the opportunity to be one of the chaperone parents on the field trip. The experience for me has been one that I’ve accepted as a privilege knowing that one day soon, my daughter would no longer experience the Zoo as she had through the eyes of a young child. In my daughter’s near future, the day will come to pass that the magic and excitement of a trip to the Zoo will fade into the past along with her belief in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, and gifts under her pillow from a Fairy for the loss of a loose tooth. In the eyes of a young child, a trip to the Zoo is monumental.
The day before the Zoo field trip, Marisa’s teacher, Mrs. Rueth, gave Marisa the task of choosing the friends that she would like to have in our group for the trip. Marisa chose one of her best friends Jacob, along with his friend, Ryan, and her new friend in class, Lauren. She was so excited about who was to be in our group that she couldn’t wait to tell me when I picked her up from the bus stop. It was important that we had all of the right items for our lunch so we were quickly ran off to the grocery store to pick up fresh fruits, drinks, and snacks for the day’s event. In the evening, we stayed up late and talked about all of the animals and things to do at the Zoo on the following day.
As expected, the next morning came upon us quickly, and Marisa’s first words were, “Daddy, I’m so excited about the field trip that I couldn’t even sleep.” I smiled, kissed her good morning and said, “neither could I.” So in a whirlwind rush, we hurried to get ready and finished making our sandwiches for the trip. Worried that we weren’t going to make it on time, I had my moments of frustration, and I found myself arguing and yelling at Marisa to get ready and hurry up. Later I would come to realize that the arguing and yelling wasn’t necessary and I wished I hadn’t allowed myself to get caught up in the moments of my frustration. Often times, I find it difficult to contain my frustration when I do not allow myself to live within the moment of now. I am sorry for the morning tears that I have created in my daughter’s eyes.
We made it to school on time, and everything was right on schedule as I knew all along that it would be. Upon entering the school office, one of the teachers looked at Marisa and asked her if everything was okay and if there was something the matter with her eyes. We preceded into the nurse’s office where upon, the nurse had determined that Marisa was coming down with Pink Eye. At that moment, Marisa didn’t understand what that meant and the nurse told Marisa that she would not be able to participate in the school field trip to the Zoo. With all of the pride within her soul, Marisa did her best to keep her composure and try not to cry. As I looked at her I could feel the emotion within her heart and see the tears begin to well up in her eyes. She turned to me, buried her head in my chest and said, “Daddy, what is wrong with me? I want to go to the Zoo with my friends.” It took all of the composure I had not to break down and cry along with her.
As the nurse was explaining to Marisa what Pink Eye was and why she wouldn’t be able to participate in the field trip, everyone else within the office did their best to console her and help her to understand. All I could do was hold her in my arms and tell her that everything was going to be alright. The nurse wasn’t exactly sure if it was Pink Eye, and decided to consult the Principal for the final decision of whether or not Marisa would be allowed to participate in the field trip. It was decided that she would not be allowed to participate. It was at that moment that I watched my daughter’s heart break into a thousand pieces. To witness my daughter experience this disappointment in her life weighed heavy on my heart. My heart was absorbed in compassion and I was feeling an overwhelming sense of empathy.
My instincts as a parent were to do all I could to make the situation better coming from a place of love, compassion, and empathy. My thoughts drifted back into my childhood to moments of my own disappointment. I searched my soul for what it was that I needed, as a child at those moments, in hopes to find the right words to say to my daughter to assist her in feeling better and to have some sense of understanding. All I could do was hold her in my arms and tell her everything was going to be alright. I prayed to God for the gifts of compassion and empathy in my life, and he presented me with this experience. I found myself at that moment being given the gift of learning what it is to feel, experience, internalize, and acknowledge the gifts of compassion and empathy within my life. These gifts are available to all of us at every moment of our lives, the blessing is in being aware of the gifts as they are being given. I am grateful, thank you God. My father, may you continue to show me the way to see my life through the eyes of love, compassion, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness, and most of all, forgiveness of myself.
Right before my eyes, I was watching my daughter grow up and experience a moment that would be with her forever. On her own, as I watched and held her in my arms, she was growing up. I know that this may not seem to be a big deal to many, and to be human is to deal with disappointment on a daily basis. However, on this day, looking through the eyes of my nine year old daughter, the field trip to the Zoo was everything. At that moment in time, my little girls life was completely falling apart. She was devastated. In her world there is so much to understand, and at her age, sometimes that seems to be impossible.
Through what seemed like a river of tears of the kind of crying where you can’t really breath, Marisa gathered her belongings, said her good byes, and we heading out of the school to go home. As we were exiting the school and entering into the parking lot, Marisa then had to watch her classmates get onto the buses to go to the Zoo. As I held her hand and wished that I could lift the pain from her heart, I could only imagine the feelings of disappointment and embarrassment Marisa was experiencing at that time. On the way to our vehicle, Marisa told me that her heart never hurt so bad before and she asked me if I thought she might be having a heart attack. When we arrived to our vehicle, Marisa was so upset and overwhelmed within her emotions that she began to vomit. She cried the whole way home.
We arrived home and once again, all I could do was hold her in my arms, let her cry, and try to console her and make things better to the best of my ability. As I was holding Marisa, she told me that she wanted Scott, her soon to be step father, to be with her to make her feel better and to make her laugh. It was then that my heart broke into a thousand pieces. As a divorced man with a child, that was the last thing I wanted to hear at a time when my daughter was in need of me. Scott is a good man, and he is very good to my daughter and my ex-wife. In my life, is has taken much understanding for me to come from a place of acceptance of the blessing that my daughter will have another father figure in her life along with mine. Many children go through life without a father or a father who is even willing to be a part of their lives, so with that point of view, my daughter has been blessed. Again, God has shown me the way through the pain I feel within my heart by the lessons taught to me by my daughter. Marisa and I, are here to guide each other along the paths of our journeys. Thank you God for the gift of my daughter, she is the one most precious to me.
While this was all going on, my ex-wife was on the phone with the doctor’s office and arranged for the doctor to squeeze Marisa into his morning schedule. In hopes that Marisa didn’t actually have Pink Eye, I was going to try and run downtown to the Zoo and catch up with the rest of the class. During our wait in the doctor’s office, and in the hopes that we would still have an opportunity to go to the Zoo, Marisa wanted to make up a song using all the letters of the alphabet to name animals from the Zoo that started with each particular letter. The joy that I experienced making up the song with my daughter was one that I will never forget. It was one on one time coming from a place of absolute love between the both of us. I am grateful for that moment. We were in need of each other. The doctor examined Marisa, and the diagnosis was in fact Pink Eye. Once again, Marisa fought hard to contain her tears of disappointment.
Marisa and I decided to go home, eat the lunch that we had prepared, and check out what was playing at the local theater for an afternoon movie date. Marisa now began to see a ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel she felt she was traveling down. On the way home, we stopped at the Walgreen’s Drug Store to fill her prescription and I let Marisa pick out a little toy. She choose a new pack of Mighty Beanz for her Mighty Beanz collection. Again, another ray of light that brought a smile to my little girls face. By now, I was on an emotional roller coaster ride of emotions from sorrow to joy. All of which I was experiencing simultaneously. We decided to go see the movie, “Ella Enchanted.”
Two tickets to the movies, two buckets of popcorn, two soda pops, and a father and daughter on an afternoon movie date. This was going to be a good time. The movie was just what was needed. It was a fairy tale story of a girl who falls in love with a Prince, marries him, and they live happily ever after. The perfect movie for a nine year old girl or any girl for that matter. Our time shared together at the movie theater was certainly enjoyed. However, my emotions were on such a heightened level that I found myself crying throughout the entire film. Marisa would see me cry a bit during the movie, and at one point she turned to me and said, “stop crying Dad, you need to eat some more popcorn.” She was right, the popcorn was really good. We held hands and occasionally, Marisa would lean over to me and give me a kiss on my cheek.
Often times, within my life, I become caught up in the moment of my daily grind, and I miss experiencing moments of my daughter’s life as she is growing up. There have been many first times within her life that I have missed, and I’m sure there will be many more that will pass me by. As a divorced parent, time experienced with my daughter is against me, and on a daily basis, the many moments of first times, slip away. I often look back and realize that those moments are gone with the past and they’re never to come back. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just the way that it is. There is no turning back, and I can’t start over. I am grateful for being aware of the magical moments I share within my daughters life. Thank you God for the blessing of awareness to recognize these gifts you have given me.
I remember a moment, a few years back when my daughter was five years old, and I was about to travel out of town for business. As I was giving my daughter Marisa a good bye kiss, she asked me if I could pick her up and throw her up into the air. I reached down, picked her up and I began to toss her up into the air and catch her in my hands as she came down. Catching her in my hands, and experiencing her joy and happiness within her laughter, I realized that in a couple of months from that time, I would no longer be able to experience that joy. She would soon be too heavy for me to toss her into the air and catch her in my hands. Now, as time has gone on, no longer are the days when all my daughter wanted to do was to get on my back and ride around the living room like riding a horse. I miss those days along with the days of getting my daughter ready and dressed for an event, or drying her hair with out an argument. She has now grown into an independence of taking care of that all by herself. I miss the times of pushing her in a swing at the park before she figured out how to swing on her own. I miss the times when she was only concerned with hanging out with me as opposed to setting up a play date or watching cartoons and movies. It is was within those moments, and many others, that I have been grateful to have had the insight to acknowledge just how precious those moments in life really are. My baby girls becoming all growns up. I am grateful, and I will cherish the moments within my heart forever.
As with all of us, and as time goes on, the moments within our lives never seem to slow down as they slip away into time. Life continues to move faster, and moments put off become later, and later only becomes later. I’m running to something, I keep running towards something. If not running to something, I’m running from something, I can’t stop myself from running. I’m running to catch up with time…I can’t stop running. I can’t turn back, there is no surrender. One step up, two steps back, three steps up, I’m three steps back, I’m going to keep on running and keep on keeping on, one foot in front of the other. I can’t stop running.
Thank you God. I have been blessed with the gift of my daughter and the lessons she has to teach me. Along the path of my journey, give me the strength to live my life as a good man, and be a good father to my daughter. Open my eyes and my heart to live my life coming from a place of love, caring, compassion, and empathy for my family and friends. I want to be fair and just, and live my life where as my word is law within my universe. I am grateful.
Today I watched my baby girl’s heart break into a thousand pieces.
To my daughter Marisa: I miss you everyday.