We talked a lot about your name, your Mom and me, on that first drive home from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Your middle name came first: “Victoria”. It had two meanings. First, because that was your great-grandfather’s middle name, Victor. But on that long drive home in the dark, it was the second meaning — the literal definition of the word “victor” — that stood out to us, because it was what we needed you to be.
For someone who supposedly knows how to use words good and stuff, I will forever lack the ones to describe the immediate weeks that followed that trip. On any one of those days, I would have traded everything to know you would be okay. But life is funny and strange and altogether unpredictable, and sometimes you find immutable truths in unexpected places. Because it was in those dark moments, when you were only a middle name and a fuzzy black-and-white outline on a screen, that I knew with absolute certainty that I loved you more than just about anything in this world.
And while I am often wrong (especially on any Final Jeopardy questions about music or geography) and will continue to be (especially as you grow older and your sentences increasingly start with But Daaaaaaaad…), I wasn’t here. In fact, there are few things — if any — that I’ve been more right about in my life.
Because several months later, you came into this world crying and not 10 minutes later you pooped on that little heat-lamp table that looks like a much fancier version of the kind that keeps fried chicken warm at Hollywood Fried Chicken and suddenly me and your Mom were crying, too, because you’d pooped and I will never again be so happy in my life to see another living creature poop.
In that moment, you’d come to embody that middle name your Mom and me had dreamed up for you when, in those fleeting moments, spread apart like the streetlights headed northbound toward home after that first visit to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, we dared to allow ourselves to hope.
I am such a lucky man. I have your mother and your sister and a roof over my head and food and family and friends. And now I have you and I often wonder how it is that I’ve been so lucky. Not just for everything that happened before you were born, but for every moment you’ve given me after. How am I so lucky that I get to be your Dad?
You are fearless and kind and bumps and bruises. You are smart and adventurous and painfully observant. You are smiles and giggles and eyes so big and wide that life can’t help but pour in through them. You are a sister and a daughter and someone who, even so young, is unafraid to love.
And perhaps most fittingly, you are my living, laughing, reminder to never lose hope.
That is your secret, that singularly magic word. Even before you were born you gave us hope, and it is my own hope that you carry that with you, always, and share it with the world. As I’m sure you’ll learn one day, the world will never have enough of it.
May you always have your indomitable spirit, your dauntless enthusiasm, your wellspring of kindness. May you always dare to hope and dream, even in the dark stretches between streetlights. And may you always know, that even before you were born, you were loved beyond words.
And you always will be.