I have a daughter and I forgot her birthday. I remember her first one, couldn't forget that. She came so quickly, I hardly had time to get settled for what I thought would be a long haul and she was there. So insistent, so present, so there. When we took her home I spent the first night with her so her mother could sleep. On the family room floor next to her, listening to her soft rapid breathing, every couple hours she'd wake and cry and I'd take her to her mother to nurse. Then back on the floor. With me. Just me and my only daughter. And I forgot her birthday.
I remember her growing up, she would get her words mixed up, saying "callipeter" and "beltseat". She had an electric smile that lit up the room, with gleaming eyes under a pageboy haircut. Like me she was small with dark hair over fair skin - a bundle of energy and joy. She would go out to the swing set and sing her favorite song from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. Of course she was the Mermaid. I would listen to my daughter sing and marvel that she was mine. And I forgot her birthday.
She had a tough streak: she had to because she had a big, no BIG brother three years older who went where he would, including into her her room, her things, her space. We had a rule that Amelia could hit Sam but Sam couldn't hit her. A rule to his credit he honored. And Amelia needed all the help she could get simply to keep the big lug from straying to deeply into her precious things, we would hear her shouts of rage and whack whack whacks as he nonchalantly proceeded, almost oblivious to her. I loved her intensity and prayed that she would keep it her whole life. I have a daughter and I forgot her birthday.
She and Sam grew to be friends. We would go to our beach house in Michigan for two weeks every year and their mother would fret and plan for ways to keep them occupied on the eight hour drive, cleverly devising games and gifts and other fun. But in the end they entertained each other, communicating in the way that brothers and sisters always do. I will always remember my son teaching his sis' some important details of of life: "Hey Ameeeeelia (he always stretched the e, dunno why) do you know what the "S" word is?"....."no...what?"..."Shut up". And a few minutes later: "Hey Ameeeeelia, do you know what the F word is?"....."no...what?" ...."Fart". I almost drove off the road, laughing so hard at my son and my daughter. And I forgot her birthday.
Amelia was a risk taker in a way that I or Sam or her mother never were. One day I was working in my office on the third floor in our house which stood on the slope of the hill. In front of it, further down the slope was a young white pine tree, four stories high, its top reaching my third floor window. That windy spring day I was busily beavering away at something and I heard her voice "Hey Dad! Look Here!" It was Amelia, clinging to the highest part of the trunk in the swaying breeze. The last time I left what had been our house I looked up the white pine and there were seats and jump ropes and other things that she had put up there for her and her friends. And I forgot her birthday.
I remember one time I was working outside on something and she was riding her bike. She had just learned - Sam had taught her - he loved her even has he vexed her mightily. She was driving around the house on the garden paths in her bare feet. By the neighbor's standards we were "bad parents" because we let our children "run wild". Not really - but we gave them the freedom that our parents ha given us and were willing to take the risks that our choice presented. Including the risk of a barefoot young girl riding too close to the extra slate roof tiles and slicing her foot open. She cried so hard that she couldn't breathe - her intensity again - I almost cried with her but soon she calmed down and we dressed the wound and went up the family room where she got a popsicle and I a margarita and we watched Sponge Bob Squarepants together. Not my favorite but at the time one of my daughter's. And I forgot her birthday.
As time passed. my situation became more troubled and our marriage more desperate, I didn't spend as much time with Amelia. I was travelling overseas often and obsessed with making money that I needed to maintain our lifestyle. She didn't punish me for my lack of attention, continuing to treat me much as she always had. She was such a beautiful girl and I was so grateful for her. And I forgot her birthday.
Then there was the day that we told the kids that I was moving out. That our marriage was at its end and that there was no chance of reconciliation My wife began the tale of woe and I finished, breaking into tears towards the end. My son and daughter jumped up and embraced me, the three of us crying together, Amelia's hot tears on my neck. And I forgot her birthday.
I realized that my daughter was no longer a girl some time later. I had a partner who had a huge, wonderful yacht and he graciously invited Amelia to have her fifteenth birthday party on it. She brought seven or eight friends and I was amazed how she had become a beautiful young woman. While Sam spent most of the time driving the boat (those of you that know him know what I'm talking about) I spent most of my time watching her. Her poise and grace. How she carried herself, how she was so very beautiful. My daughter. And I forgot her birthday.
I was with her five short days before she turned nineteen two days ago but that fact never once registered in my mind. You see after a period of frustration, things are going well for me again - I have a new business and was dating a woman for the first time since my marriage failed. In many respects was in as good a shape as I had been for a decade. I was so happy - and to be be with both my kids at Lake of the Ozarks at my friend Debra's was a double treat. I was so full of myself that despite being with my daughter I forgot her birthday. I know I'm selfish, I know I'm weak but I didn't realize that I was so selfish and weak that I would forget her. But I did. She of course forgave me but that did not and can not change the fact that I have a daughter and I forgot her birthday.
The only thing I can say, Amelia is that I'm sorry and that I love you and that I am so very proud that I have a daughter and that she is you.
For I have a daughter and I forgot her birthday