Twenty years ago today, I was recovering from my sixth C/section.
Today, I couldn't be more proud of my youngest son.
For anyone unfamiliar with the challenges we faced with Daniel as a family, challenges that he has overcome, here's a peek: http://www.chicagoparent.com/magazines/chicago-parent/2008-january/children-and-mental-illness.
We won't recoup the horrible years. Let me tell you where Daniel is now.
This young man started taking general education classes at Joliet Junior College at what would have been his junor year of high school. He earned his GED the following fall, as we were losing our home and were officially homeless, is currently enrolled in the school's automotive program, and works in the college's food service. Just last week as I was packing food for work, he read an email someone had sent his boss, praising Daniel's service. Daniel said his boss has received about a dozen others since last April.
This weekend I was the weekend editor for two newspapers. At the moment, we are short-staffed, so while accomodations are made most of the time for life events, that doesn't always happen, so I put on my big girl hat and did it. On Sundays, however, unless news breaks - and that can never be predicted - my duties are social media (which I do during the week anyway) and maybe the editing of a story or two, really nothing that time-consuming.
Daniel really wanted me to watch "Smallville" with him after church. That was his sole birthday request. I figured that's easy. If news breaks, he'll pause the show; I'll address the news; and then we get back to it.
Easy. Yeah, okay.
Because Daniel doesn't like cake, Rebekah, our pastry "chef" made Daniel's two most favorite desserts: pumpkin pie and mint chocolate ice cream. She made enough to share at church. That means four pies and GALLONS of ice cream.
Good so far.
We got to church for the last fifteen minutes because I was busy with work. They could have left without me, but that's not the type of kids my adult children are. After liturgy, with our 82-year-old pastor Fr. Boris leading the singing, we sang "Happy Birthday" and "God Grant You Many Years" to Daniel. Then Fr. Boris presented Daniel with a $20 bill, adding, "But when you turn 50, just smile!"
Good so far. Remember that $20.
Long story short, someone couldn't cover a story this afternoon, the main story for Monday's paper. So our photo editor was called in to shoot it, and I went to cover it. I could have borrowed Daniel's car, but Daniel insisted on taking me.
It was a 100th birthday party (ironically) and tribute celebration for a founder of a local community. Daniel got to meet a state senator, who was also celebrating his birthday today. That was cool. While I interviewed and shot video, Daniel ran to the mall and surprised me with a Gloria Jean.
Yes, he suprised me. On his birthday. When no one has money for presents for him, including me.
Then he dropped me off at work, insisting that I call when done so he can drive me home. I can walk, but again, he insisted.
On the way home, he told me that he gave the $20 away to his oldest brother, who just lost his job, had a baby, and who needed gas money. Then Daniel gave another $20 to a homeless woman with a hacking cough and a cardboard sign. He figured God put him on this earth to help people, what better way than on his birthday?
Then he worried that maybe his motives weren't pure enough, that he did so hoping people would think he was a good person. I told him to let it go and not overthink it.
While I went upstairs to get some more work done, he and Rebekah cleaned the house, so I would have time to watch 30 minutes of something with them after my shower before we all have to go to bed, as we all have to be up super-early. They are finishing up as I write this.
Am I complaining? No. I love my job and don't mind the hours. On that same note, the kids all work long hours and go to school. So we all get it. And we all feel blessed to be so busy with things we love. That just had to be said.
So although what little plans we made for Daniel's birthday went south, he actually had a fantastic birthday.
And I just wanted you to know what a phenomenal young man my youngest son is and how stupid proud I am of him.
Happy 20th birthday, Daniel John Baran!