Happy Birthday Shantel

Wow, I can’t hardly believe our baby girl is turning 25 tomorrow. As I’m thinking back over the years, and our lives together, I want you to know what an honor, and privilege, it has been for Papa and I to adopt you, and be your parents. We are sharing an incredible journey together, one that has had extreme, heart-shattering challenges, as well as overwhelming joys. I remember the day you were born like it happened yesterday, and I wanted to take this opportunity, on your 25th birthday, to share with you some of my fondest memories. This post is a little long, but it’s full of things I want you to know, and to have documented for you to reread in the future.

I was the labor coach when you were born, and Papa was there as well, so from the moment we first saw you coming into this world, you had our hearts. Of course, we had no idea then, what challenges we would face together. We had no way of knowing that from the day you were born, cancer had already started working to rob you of your eyes, and thus your sight, and that within two and a half years, you would be blind for life. But, now, looking back, we know it was meant to be that we would all make this journey together.

I’m posting the only picture I have of you when you still had your natural eyes. I love this picture because it shows you as our beautiful baby girl all dressed up in your first Christmas dress. It was all white, layered lace, with just three red bows across your chest, and you have a white lace headband in your dark, curly, hair. I remember so well when Papa and I took you to have this picture made. We had to wait for a long time in line, you were tired, and fell asleep in my arms. Thankfully, just as it was time for your picture, you woke up happy and smiling, as you always did, and we got a precious picture that I treasure.

 Shortly after you recovered from the surgeries to remove both your eyes, we enrolled you in the Foundation For Blind Children in Phoenix. It was a day program that you went to four day’s a week. They were wonderful, and  instrumental, in helping us learn how to help you live blind, in a sighted world. You were the youngest child ever, at the Foundation For Blind Children School, to learn to walk with a long cane. That is because you were so strong, and it takes a lot of strength in your arm and wrist to hold the long cane correctly, and move it from side to side to keep yourself safe in your space. I posted a picture that shows you, and your two little friends from the Foundation For Blind Children, holding hands as you participated in a fashion show to help support the Foundation For Blind Children School. You were only three and a half in this picture, and already mastering the long cane.

I took you to religion classes, and helped teach you about Jesus, and beamed with pride as I walked you down the aisle to receive him in the Holy Eucharist the day you made your first Holy Communion. But as you were learning about Jesus, you taught me so much more. You taught me about having absolute, unconditional love, compassion, and empathy for all people, not just those in your family, or those that are easy to love, just like Jesus teaches us to do. You taught me what real inner strength is, and that no matter how hard things get, if you have faith, and love in your heart, all things will work out as they are meant to be. You taught me that there are worse things than being blind, and that seeing with your heart is a true gift from God. I posted a picture of you in your communion dress standing with me in front of some beautiful roses just outside the church.

Your love knows no boundaries Shantel. You love all people, and all beings, even Carmen, the cat you insisted you had to have. She made herself irresistible to you when we went to find a cat for you at the Humane Society. We agreed that the cat that came up, and was the friendliest to you, would be the one we would get. Then, once we got her home, you said she turned on you. She didn’t like that you always put your hand above her head when you went to pet her, so she would swat and scratch you. You said you thought she must have been a “bait and switch” cat, because she didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with you once we got her home. But you continued to try, and try, to win her over because you loved her, even when she wasn’t being very loveable to you. We all loved that cat for 12 years, and it was a sad day when she had to be put down. I posted a picture of Carmen here.

As much as it sometimes got on my very last nerve, Shantel, I really did love all our baking times together every Sunday, even though I don’t like to bake. The main reason I loved those times so much, was because of your passion and love of baking. I learned so much from you during those baking sessions. I learned that things don’t have to look perfect, to be perfect. I posted a picture of you licking the beater after you mixed up some kind of sweet desert.

And I always admired the love, and special bonding time, you and Papa had every time you would cook or bake Christmas cookies together. I posted a picture of you and Papa cooking, and baking, together in your apartment.

I will always treasure all the early mornings you and I spent at McDonald’s, just before I would drop you off for your college classes. You would eat while I drilled you on your lessons for the day. Sometimes I thought you were not paying attention, as you seemed more interested in eating, so I would ask you to repeat what I just said, and you always would repeat it back to me verbatim. I posted a picture of you eating your McDonald’s breakfast.

I so enjoyed watching you meet, and bond, with who I believe will be your lifelong friend, Jaz.  You met in college, and still remain great friends today. I knew Jaz would be a lifelong friend when I saw that she allowed you to be you. She accepted you just the way you are, and never tried to change anything about you. She always walks beside you, not in front of, or behind you. She talks to you, not at you, and she really enjoys hearing your opinion on things. She learns as much from you as you learn from her. What a great person she is inside and out. We love her, and consider her part of our family. I posted a picture of you and Jaz walking together at college.

Papa and I loved that you love our love of hiking, and that you would ask Papa and I to take you hiking every chance we could. I loved that you trusted me as your sighted guide out on the hiking trails, an even more difficult world to maneuver without sight. So many great times, and memories, we made together while we were hiking the trails. I posted a picture of you and I out on the hiking trails.

And, oh my, how I love, how you do love to eat! Every time we take you out to eat, it is pure joy on your face. I posted a picture of you enjoying your king crab legs at Joe’s Crab Shack on Easter.

The day you got the keys to your first apartment, shortly after your 21st birthday, was such a bitter/sweet day for me. I knew that day would come, and it is what Papa and I worked so hard to prepare you for. From the day you lost your sight, our full focus and attention was to help you truly become an independent adult. But as much as my mind knew you were ready, and this was the right thing for you, my heart struggled so with letting you go. I tried so hard to keep my selfish feelings tucked inside (I posted a picture of you holding your apartment keys in your hand),

so I wouldn’t take away from your excitement, and joy, of starting out to make a life of your own, on your own. I posted a picture of you laughing while stuffing more of your things into a hamper as you were packing to move out.

As Papa and I drove you to your apartment, and new life, it was like I was watching it all happen in slow motion. You were ready, excited, and showed no fear. But I, was by far, not prepared for the panic, fear, and emotions, I was going through. I posted a picture of you sitting with your stuff in your lap as we drove you to your first apartment.

I remember how happy you were with the brand new sofa and coffee table you bought with your own money, that you saved up from birthday’s, and your graduation from college money. I posted a picture of your sofa and coffee table.

You were so happy to have brand new appliances in your little kitchen, and talked about all the cooking and baking you would do. I posted a picture of your kitchen.

Your sense of humor is what always got Papa and I through the really tough times of chemo treatments, and years of fighting for your rights in the school systems. I remember when you were in first grade, and you had to have your tonsils out, and the teacher sent home an art project for you to complete. You had to glue feathers, candy corn, and uncooked macaroni on a picture of a turkey as part of a demonstration of how the first Thanksgiving went… You dropped a piece of candy corn on the floor while we were working on the project, and you just bent down, scooped the candy corn off the tile floor, and ate it. I told you not to eat things off the floor. At the end of glueing the candy corn, feathers and macaroni on the picture of the turkey, you got up and knocked the remaining macaroni on the floor. I told you to pick up the macaroni, and you said “you know I’m blind”. I said “well, you weren’t blind when you dropped the candy corn so pick up the macaroni. You just smiled that same “thought I got you smile you still have today” and picked up all the macaroni.

In addition to your great sense of humor helping us get through the hard times, Shantel, we also had great friends that always stepped up, and supported us in every way. Friends like Holly and Chuck, who were there every step of the way from day one, providing emotional support, encouraging us, visiting us, and welcoming us into their lives, and home. If not for their love, emotional support, and generosity, we would not have been able to buy our first home where we planned to raise you. They also loaned us the money to retain a lawyer when we had to fight the school system to get them to provide your school work, correctly, in braille, in a timely manner to give you a level playing field with your sighted peers. Over the years, we became so much more than friends, we became a real family, so much so that we named them in our will as the people we wanted to take you, and raise you, in the event something happened to us. I don’t know what we would ever do without them in our lives. We love them so.

And our dear friends, Robin and Bob, who always welcomed all of us into their home for the many parties they had, that we would not have been able to attend if they had not welcomed you as well. That alone, provided emotional support to us, and gave Papa and I an outlet to having a social life while keeping you safe. They also fell in love with you, so much so that they gifted all of us with an all expense paid trip to New York City for your graduation from High School. You always said you wanted to visit New York City, and ride the subway, and eat all the great food. There was no way we could afford to have taken you on a trip like that in New York City. Special friends like that are hard to find, and when you have them, you never let them go.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. We were beyond blessed to have more than a village, Shantel, we had good-hearted people, that did more than give us a passing glance, while patting us on the back and thinking, tough break… Holly and Chuck, Robin and Bob, got involved, and helped us along the way. With their emotional support, and their generous hearts, they made our lives easier during very difficult times. We are forever grateful, and know that we are truly blessed that each of them are in our lives.

You still have that same beautiful sense of humor, and free spirit, Shantel, in everything you do. I love that you meet every challenge life gives you with a peaceful, joyful, heart. I love that you never let life’s challenges bring you down, and that you never let yourself feel sorry for yourself, but instead, you find ways to make your world work for you.

The next picture is of you with three cowgirl hats stacked together on your head. We were shopping for Halloween decorations, and knowing, unlike me, you never liked anything to do with cowgirl or cowboy stuff, I asked you to let me put one of the hats on you and take a picture. You smiled that same smile I love so much, and put not one, but three, cowgirl hats on your head.

You are our greatest joy Shantel. You are our heart and our soul. You are our hero, and you have always inspired us to want to be the best people we can be. Papa and I love you. We are so proud of the beautiful woman you are, and we are so thankful, and grateful, we were blessed as to be your parents. We would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Happy Birthday, baby girl. You’ll always be our baby girl. I posted a picture of you, me, and Papa, together on one of out family outings.

 

With all our love,

Papa and Mom

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellen Kaufman
    Jun 15, 2018 @ 13:55:57

    Happy 25th Birthday Shantel! Thank you for all the sunshine and love you brought into our lives when we would come to Arizona and visit with you. You are an amazing young lady!

    Reply

  2. Bill
    Jun 15, 2018 @ 21:01:47

    Mom and I are so proud of you and love you so much, Happy birthday and have a fun time with your friends tomorrow.
    Love Papa!

    Reply

  3. gotham girl
    Jun 18, 2018 @ 23:57:11

    This my sweet dear friend and sister was so well written and documented for Shantel. I cried so much reading it I had to stop and come back to it. It exudes LOVE. Unconditional LOVE that you both had and continue to have for her. I’ve never respected two people in my entire life like I have for you two. An incredible tribute. Well done my sweet. So well done. Love all of you.

    Reply

    • beyondcinderella
      Jun 19, 2018 @ 12:10:46

      Thank you Frissy. It took me four days to write that post for Shantel, and I cried all the way through every word. Bro cried when he read it and said it was tough to read. Shantel has only responded one time in writing on the blog, but she does read the posts. She called me and said the birthday post was really nice, and that she appreciates me documenting our lives for her, then she let me know I didn’t mention our first cat, Nikki. Ha! Love you MORE!! XoXo

      Reply

  4. gotham girl
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 17:18:54

    Well great minds because I also wonder why Nikki wasn’t included, ha ha! We can’t be perrrrrfect. Love you.

    Reply

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