Today you turn, 15, Nolan! You're able to start working on your driver's permit, and have already staked out the Suburban as your car of choice. You shot up to 6 feet tall, this year, and in so many ways are more, man, than child.
So many hockey "doors" have started to open, and your mentors have seen us through, trying to figure out how to navigate, the opportunities coming your way.
All of this, despite having to learn to tolerate a lengthy healing process. And yet, your work ethic hasn't been deterred for long. The shooting tarp has been thoroughly christened with new puck remnants all over it, as you moved back outside to shoot.
I love that I see the goals you want to achieve, taped to the bathroom mirror downstairs. You face them every day, and the numbers may change, but the manner in which you conduct yourself, doesn't.
You even signed up for an extra session with your trainer, Joel. So you lift weights at 6 in the morning, and then you do another full session of cardio. You're so excited to be feeling better and ready to push yourself into meeting your new goals.
Finally, this last week, you quietly received the biggest gift of all. When you were asked by a coach to do some skating, you were officially cleared to get back on the ice. A twinkle is back in your eye.
Yes, its been a rough Spring. The hockey season-ending concussion you suffered, took its toll on you physically and emotionally. We're thankful for all of your friends who came through and spent time with you, and offered encouragement, and supported you.
During one of your darkest days, you tiptoed into my room, where I was trying to rest so I could go back and be with Mom. You searched through my closet, my bookshelf, then asked if you could look in my drawers.
You were sheepish when I asked what you were looking for.
"My Hands-on Bible."
"Mom, do you ever just want to feel closer to God?"
"I just want His words close to me, so I can understand better what all of this stuff means."
I laid next to him for awhile, while he shared feeling lost. He was sad about Grandma, and without saying more, he grabbed my hand and held it a minute or two- he has few words for my cancer. So we just hold it between our hands.
My heart sweeps with pride for this young man one minute, and aches for the little boy, the next.
That little boy, who was just 3 when he provided the perfect material for me to launch my writing…
My favorite Nolan story...
When Nolan was three he had gone to play the Sunday golf game with his dad one April day. It was unusually warm that day and got up into the mid 60's. It was just warm enough to catch us off-guard and Nolan experienced his first sun burn. He howled when I gave him his bath that night. He could not fathom how that red got on his skin. We put some ointment on it and put him in bed and he was much better in the morning.
A few days later after his bath he came to me. We'd had one of those days. I was in bed, emotionally drained and exhausted. Its hard to be three. Its even harder to be a parent of a child who is three. I was startled to see him creeping into my room. His eyes were downcast. His voice was somber and serious. "Mom, he said, his voice filled with resignation, "I think I'm dying." I got up from the bed. My mind started to spin.
I said "Nolan, what is wrong?"
"My skins coming off," he said. "I must be dying."
I said, "Nolan, what have you been doing? Did you get into something? DID YOU PUT SOMETHING IN YOUR MOUTH?" I was so unprepared for his confession.
"Oh mom," he said, "Every day I do. You tell me not to, but I do. I just can't help it."
"What Nolan, tell me what you put in your mouth?"
"I ate grass once," he said. "I eat dog food all the time. Oh, and I licked the bottom of my shoe. Yesterday I tasted the side of the car and its pooey mom, don't ever put your tongue on it!"
By now I am trying to hold my sides that are jiggling from the laughter trying to escape.
"Now my skin is coming off. Mom, I'll probably be going to heaven tonight. Don't be sad. I'll miss you!"
I am leaning over inspecting what I realize is his skin peeling from the sunburn and hugging him at the same time.
"Oh Nolan" I managed to choke out.
As I go to get some lotion he tells me he has to use the bathroom. I holler at him to close the door. He is in there a long time then suddenly comes around the corner and he is smiling. "Mom! I've got it," he says. "Do you think God goes potty? Because if he does, and he closes the door, I'll just sneak down from Heaven when he isn't looking and give you a hug so you won't miss me too much."
And with that he ran back to bed.
Love you, buddy.