Today is eight years to the day you were born, Max. Eight years since your dad and I went to the hospital full of hope, eight years since we first saw your little face, eight years since my long-time dream of having a baby finally happened. It's also been eight years since we found out you had a stroke, eight years since we were crushed to learn what had happened, eight years since doctors told us awful things about what the future might hold for you, eight years since we spent two weeks in the hospital with you, eight years since we left there filled with anxiety but also hope, which came back to us.
I haven't given much thought over the years to how you might have turned out if that stroke hadn't happened. I look at you and I see a beautiful, bright, charming, determined kid. You are you, a great kid in his own right, not the kid you could have been. Tonight, actually, I've been wondering something else. And not just because it's 1:24 a.m. and I'm maybe a little delirious. If you hadn't had that stroke, Max...
...would your smile be the same?
...would I have been out-of-my-head with bliss at your very first steps, the ones doctors didn't think you'd ever take?
...would you still be so adorably passionate about your favorite things—purple, car washes, Caleb, trucks, chocolate ice-cream?
...would I be thrilled every single time a word came out of your mouth?
...would I have been as deeply grateful for the progress on your report cards?
...would you still nestle your head into my neck and deeply breathe in and out—those breath kisses that somehow make the world seem right?
...would I literally jump up and down and screech stuff like "MAX IS SPELLING!!!" and "MAX CLIMBED THE STAIRS BY HIMSELF!!!"?
...would you do that thing where you laugh-cry at the same time when you get overly excited, like when your Dad came to school the other day with ice-cream for your birthday?
...would I sometimes creep into your room and night, sit there on your bed watching you sleep and just feel thankful?
...would I be in awe of you any more than I am?
I don't think so. No, I don't think so at all.
Happy birthday, sweetheart. I love you.