Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear Joel,

Dear Joel,

With each letter to the children, I found myself wanting to say, "You're the best thing that ever happened to me." And, quite honestly, each one WAS, because they were possible only because of the preceding events/people in my life. So Ainsleigh was the best thing because she made me a mom and gave me a new dimension to love you. And Donovan was the best thing because he was a sibling for Ainsleigh and just so totally different from her. And Gemma was the best thing because she made our family complete. But at the heart of it all is You. You, actually, are the best thing that ever happened to me.

You are an amazing dad. A couple days ago we all went skiing. It was a crazy day. It takes an hour and a half to get to the resort, it was busy and windy, and the kids are a lot of work to suit up, to get them to haul their skis, etc. And you've been doing this for a couple years now without me (partly because Gemma has been too young, partly because I've been a wimp). I found myself often thinking, "He does this WITH THE KIDS because he wants to." There are a lot of dads who would ditch their families or not even bother with it because it's too much work. Not you. You have organized a ski bag and instructed the kids on what they're supposed to do. You enjoy boarding, but it's important to you to involve the children. Last year you went up nearly every Saturday with the kids, and were rewarded with children who know how to ski down green and blue runs. This year, you've committed to the next two and a half months of ski school, which means you'll be back up the mountain every Saturday (though the bonus is that someone else will do the instructing and you can actually do a significant amount of boarding). The other difference this year is that I will be up there with you. This last time we went, you spent the whole time on the bunny hill with Gemma, taking her up the magic carpet, helping her ski down. You were so engrossed in the whole event that you even forgot to take pictures. YOU! Forgot pictures! Gasp!

But that's what you do - you totally engage in what you're doing. Sometimes this can be frustrating for me because you tend to use more time doing something than you originally intended. And when you say, "I'll be there in 10 minutes," it often turns into 30-45. But this is probably also the reason your clients like you. And this is definitely the reason why this year has been your most successful year. This year has been amazing. I know of no other way to describe it. You've done really great work and we've been able to reap the rewards (see: ski school). I really loved that you wanted me to go to that awards dinner a couple months back. I enjoyed going and being with you, but I enjoyed that you wanted me there. For all of that, I thank you. We have a really comfortable life, and that's because you totally engage in what you're doing.

I loved knowing that you and the kids were at the finish line of my first half marathon. I loved having you by my side for a couple other events we did. When you have said, in moments just by ourselves, "I'm really proud of you," it's almost ridiculous how good it makes me feel. Sometimes I feel like I don't have a lot of recognizable accomplishments, so your support is everything to me. They've said to envision your "happy place" when you're stressed out or scared or unhappy. Will it sound terribly mushy to say my happy place has always been your hug? It is. I love those long, strong arms of yours.

This year you had to say goodbye to Melissa. She was the leader of the children. She was a giant in spirituality, if not stature. You were able to spend several weekends with her as her health declined and we realized she was not going to recover. You were there with her when she passed away, and I think that was a good thing. Being at home with the kids was hard because not only did I have to tell the kids, but I couldn't hug you. You got to be with your family, though, so that was good. When you got home, you said, almost defiantly, "I did cry. Right after she died." She was your sister. She was the one who taught you how to read and cheered for you in everything you did. She deserves tears. You gave a beautiful eulogy at her funeral. The children sang. It was a tough day, but it was good to be with family.

This year has been full of extreme emotions. But I am grateful every single day that the laughter, the tears, the frustration, and the joy are things I share with you. You make the funny stuff funnier. You give me a safe place to shed tears and express frustration. You've given me a life that defines joy. As I look at pictures of myself, I get a little discouraged at the lines and signs of aging. But when I step back and see that I'm aging with you, I don't care so much. And that's partly because you make me feel beautiful every day. You are the best thing that's ever happened to me.



NancyO said...

Joel reminds me a lot of Daddy (Grandpa to you) and that's about the highest compliment I can pay a man. You're both lucky to have each other.

Joel Hill said...

Nancy - that is the best compliment I've ever received. I only dream of being as amaziaperture a person as Orval.

Sarah - you are too good to me. I'm excited for us all to spend time together on and off the slopes.