Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l
You lived with your family for 19 years. By the time you were 13 or 14, it was becoming clear that we wouldn’t be able to provide you with the 24/7 care that you needed indefinitely – dressing and undressing you, changing your diapers, bathing you, preparing your blended meals and feeding you, lifting you into and out of your wheelchair seven or eight times a day. So we began working with state officials on securing a place for you in a group home in the care of the state.
Moving you was especially difficult emotionally for your mom, much as she knew it was necessary. But you get good care where you live, we’re able to see you whenever we like, and we bring you home for your birthday and for Christmas, and the arrangement works well. When you’re home we can still enjoy watching you enjoy listening to your favorite music – from Sesame Street and Disney movies – and smiling when a sound strikes you as funny. We can still hug and kiss you.
There is no way to tell, dear Erin, what goes on inside your brain, which has apparently developed only to the level of an infant. And although we’d like to think so, we don’t know for sure whether you recognize and feel the love of your family members.
But love you we do, not because of what you’ve taught us or how you’ve changed us all for the better; but because of who you are – daughter, sister, a unique human being who has touched our hearts, an inseparable part of our family and our life.
And love you we always will, unconditionally.
P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.