Sunday (February 28) was Josephine’s 16th birthday. She doesn’t like me to write about her on this blog.
But she made an exception for her birthday.
I wish I were at home and could cull through my pictures of Josephine. She was a beautiful baby with the greatest head of hair. Born with a mop of jet black hair, it suddenly turned white blond. As it grew out, there was a clearly delineated border between the black and white. A woman stopped me at Walmart once and asked how I achieved this effect. I replied, “Oh, this isn’t from a bottle. God did this.”
And God did an exceptional job putting Josephine together.
I could tell so many stories about Josephine. She was a particularly engaging toddler. Once, while mowing the lawn, Sam came across a dead mouse in the yard. He came into the house to grab some disposal items and Josephine overheard us talking. She bolted out the back door yelling, “Don’t touch it! I want to see it! I love dead animals!” This wasn’t some morbid obsession with death but rather a curiosity about something that she hadn’t been able to see up close before. She squatted in the yard and studied that little dead mouse, fascinated to see it laying before her.
Last year was a hard year for Josephine. She tore her ACL on January 2. In hindsight that should have been our first indication that 2020 was going to be a tough year. She was skiing and had just landed a jump. She turned to watch Sam attempt the same jump when her ski caught an edge. Approximately 500 pounds of pressure gathered in her left knee and POP goes the weasel!
Since you can’t repair a torn ACL, she had reconstructive surgery using her own hamstring tendon. As Angela noted, Josephine no longer has a torn ACL but a repurposed hamstring. This whole ordeal proved Josephine’s mental and physical toughness. She can also find humor in difficult situations, a vital life skill.
I remember Josephine’s first physical therapy session the day after her surgery. As I pulled her out of the car, I looked up and noticed a storefront for a cremation company. Next door to Athletico. Josephine leaned into me as we laughed hysterically at the juxtaposition of these businesses. I told her that should be some motivation for those exercises. We had a blast going to her physical therapy. It was a special time together as we laughed with Greg, her therapist, while she did the tough work of rehab. Our evenings frequently ended with McDonalds french fries which made her happy.
After months of rehab and strength training, she went back fearless to a full life. Running cross country again. Lifting and working out regularly. And, once the snow fell, skiing. But she’s avoiding those jumps now. Hopefully that’s enough to dodge another injury. Photos like this are not particularly reassuring.
Josephine is fantastic fun to be with and a shrewd shopper. She loves dogs and horses. An astute study of everything around her, she watches people closely and absorbs the slightest details from her observations. She’s intellectually gifted and musically talented. More than anything else, she has a competitive drive and a resilient spirit. Not to mention a sense of adventure.
A couple years ago, we were taking family pictures at a local forest preserve. Josephine saw a fallen log which made a bridge over a stream below. She insisted on having her picture taken in the middle of it. She bravely walked across the log, arms balancing on each side. She got to the very middle, plopped down, and dangled her legs over the side. I thought this was a terrible idea as I imagined her falling. I could only see the danger. She saw the potential beauty. She was right.
Like many teenagers, she struggles with big life questions: Why do good people do bad things? Why is there evil in the world? Does prayer really change things or is life preordained? She’s unafraid to confront opinions that differ from her own. We’ve had some lively family dinners and deep conversations. And a few arguments. She backs down from nothing and I admire her dogged commitment to her viewpoint.
Recently her religion class discussed the ethics and morality surrounding gene editing technology. A classmate said that she would use this technology to avoid having a child with Down syndrome. Now Josephine hadn’t told anyone in this class about Becky. When you’re in high school and your mother is having a baby, well, that’s a lot to take to the lunch room. Anyways, Josephine asked her classmate why she felt this way about Down syndrome. The girl responded, “Well, those people have no quality of life.”
Josephine pressed on asking, “How do you know that?” And the classmate said, “Just look at them. They don’t.” Another girl jumped into the conversation adding, “It’s very expensive to raise a child with Down syndrome. So I would do the same thing and avoid having a baby like that altogether.” Never revealing her intimate link with this scenario, Josephine simply retorted, “We’ve been told that gene editing costs millions of dollars. If you have that kind of money to edit genes, you can afford to raise a special needs child.”
Josephine feels deeply and cares passionately for those around her. She’s not sure if she wants to study law or medicine. She would be a force in either field. We’ve already crafted a future where she lives relatively close to home (as she says “close but not too close”). We imagine movie nights where Becky can pick her favorite Disney princess movie. We’re going to all have matching pajamas and wear the appropriate garments during the show. She plans to take Becky for ice cream cones. Double scoops in a sprinkled waffle cone. Josephine will spring for such luxuries. But she insists that they’ll walk round trip to the local ice cream store. After all, we need to keep Becky’s heart strong.
These musings warm my heart and make me ever grateful for that 8 pound 4 ounce miracle born with wild hair 16 years ago. She has challenged me as a mother. She has inspired me as a person. She has filled my life with zest and energy and beauty.
Simply put, I love her with all my heart.