So many years had passed but memories still flooded back as the occupational therapist warmly ushered us into her bright, busy office space shared by two other colleagues. Though it was our first meeting, her pleasant and confident demeanor reminded me of similar professionals who'd come before in your eighteen years of life.
I quietly listened and observed her line of questioning as she attempted to compile a comprehensive study of your daily habits and lifestyle and struggles occasioned by your diagnosis of mild cerebral palsy at just nineteen months old. It had been so long since we rehashed the story with someone new and you have come such a tremendously long way that it took both of us brainstorming together to recall some details. In so doing, I was struck with such gratitude and admiration and the bittersweet acknowledgment that we stood on the brink of your biggest life transition yet with college just around the corner.
As we discussed your early challenges I could picture the feisty toddler fighting to keep her balance and take strides to keep up with a sister just sixteen months older. So many times the slightest brush of one of us by you took you right off your feet! Then you were casted and fitted with the first of many pairs of AFO's - plastic leg braces in pretty pastels and feminine flowers or butterflies but which you didn't particularly appreciate. I remember therapists in Michigan, and Texas, and Santiago, and Iquique from your age two to nearly ten years old.
And then you outgrew both AFO's and therapists - or at least so you stubbornly thought - and the last eight years have been achievements entirely your own by God's grace and help. As I heard her questions and your responses, emotions of wonder and guilt and gladness and a touch of worry wrestled inside me. I recognized just how many small, daily ways you learned to make adjustments for limitations you faced - primarily in strength, endurance, and the fine motor skills required for activities such as tying shoes, buttoning pants, putting on makeup, doing your beautifully curly (and complicated!) hair. Even more so, I realized how rarely you'd expressed a need for help and how much I had taken for granted without knowing the extent of your efforts to succeed.
Perhaps some of the details were driven into forgetfulness along with the many head-butting sessions we survived as mother and daughter with strong opposing opinions on so many subjects! Your dad and I realized early in rearing you that we had to choose our battles or we would be in constant war. Yet we also granted this very tenaciousness was God's gift to help you overcome the hurdles that were inherent in your cerebral palsy diagnosis.
Dear Daughter, I admire you. Your courage and compassion and charisma have enriched our family in countless ways. I still see you insisting on training at the track with your brothers and running the races with your age group because if there was one word you couldn't accept, it was "no." I remember the arguments about soccer on a concrete court and why we didn't feel it was safe, which devastated you until finally our stateside furlough provided a grassy green field to don a uniform that you held onto forever. When you could have withdrawn or rightfully excused yourself from certain chores or challenges because of exhaustion or fine motor tremors, you instead pushed yourself to succeed.
Even now, you are determined to pursue a career path that will not be simple and that will demand all the focus and energy and commitment you can give. You've never been one to back down in the face of difficulty (though Shakespeare nearly pushed you to that point!) and I will strive to worry less and cheer you forward with much prayer in this new and exciting season of your life. Put Jesus first in everything - your daily routine and decisions, your studies and friendships, your future goals and aspirations - and know that He alone is your trustworthy guide!
When you were a little girl, casts were carefully molded by qualified professionals to create an orthosis uniquely designed for you. Many times that support was invisible under clothing - but strapping them on daily provided the safety and stability you would need. Dear Daughter, if you daily strap on the Word of God and walk in step with your Savior - He will be that safety and stability for you now. Know that Daddy and I love you greatly and will be celebrating with our little "Cheetah" every step of the way!