The One and Only

The One and Only

By Darbie Andrews   Image

I want to tell you about the most magnificent person in my life. This person made me feel a love that I didn’t know existed. My heart grew the day I met him. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m a stronger, more ambitious, and happier person because of him. He is the one and only, Dakota, my oldest son.

His entrance into my life began before his birth. It happened the day the doctor put the warm ultrasound gel over my small belly for the three month check-up.  I squeezed my husband’s hand, hoping this time would be different. We watched the black and white squiggly images changing on the screen. We could see our baby, but we wanted to hear him.  The doctor’s hand stopped moving, “Shhh,” he said. I lifted my head, hoping that would help me hear the sound that I should have heard two years ago. Nothing. I couldn’t go through that again I thought.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Relax,” the doctor said.

“I’ll try,” I took a deep breath.

“Listen.”

I let my tears fall, silently. I didn’t want to drown out the beautiful sound with my crying.

My baby had a heartbeat.

When we left the doctor’s office that day, we practically skipped to our car. We looked down at my belly several times and smiled. I wrapped my arms around myself and squeezed real tight, hoping my baby would feel the hug.  I kissed my hand then placed it on my belly. The sound of his heartbeat sang in my head. A love filled my heart like no other.

My love for him grew during the next six months as I watched my belly expand and felt him move around inside of me. The blessing of being pregnant made me grateful for every element of the process.  The weight gain, the nausea, the swelling of my feet…everything was perfect. I was so lucky to have each and every experience. I spent as much time as I could reading about every detail of his growth. I entertained people with my news, “Guess what? This week his fingernails are forming. Isn’t that amazing?” I felt like I had the winning lottery ticket and I just wanted to tell everyone all about it.

His due date fell on the day I graduated with my Master’s Degree, but all nine pounds and two ounces came into the world a week later, four days before my thirty-eighth birthday. His arrival came after many hours of labor then an emergency caesarian section. When the doctor finally held him up so I could see him, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was, perfect and beautiful. I’d never seen anything as amazing as him in my entire life. I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest.Image

During the next three months of maternity leave from teaching the second grade, I spent every day with my son, caring for him, staring at him, holding him, rocking him, singing to him, feeding him. I didn’t want to do anything else. Just looking at him made me happy.  Nothing gave me the same satisfaction and contentment as caring for Dakota. Tearing myself away from him to return to work hurt in a way I’d never experienced.  Every day it felt like I’d left part of my heart behind.

I’d rush home as fast as I can to see him and I still do. I don’t want to miss a second of his life. From his first words, “butda, butda,” to his birthdays, sports events, and report cards, I record it all. Watching him explore the world around him and grow is my greatest joy. The memories are endless and priceless. Dakota has brought a delight into my life beyond compare.Image

He is almost ten years old and I Imagecan’t believe it. His curious mind still drives him as it did during the toddler years.  I never have to worry about how he’s doing in school because he always does his best. Since Kindergarten, he’s excelled. He seeks out information and consumes novels, sometimes one a day, but one of the best parts of my son is his caring heart. How other people feel is important to him. He never wants to do anything to hurt anyone and always wants to do what is right.

Life has thrown Dakota a curve ball with the divorce of his parents four years ago, but he’s resilient.  He lives in two homes and thrives in two homes. His intelligence and desire to do the right thing keep him on the correct path. He enjoys many privileges, but appreciates what he has and this is so evident in his willingness to share with others. Dakota has had two foster brothers and with each of them he gave of himself and of his things.

ImageThe most beautiful example is how he helped his younger brother, Dominic, learn to speak. When Dominic first came to live with us at the age two and a half, he only spoke five words. He called Dakota, “dah” because he couldn’t pronounce his name. I couldn’t believe my ears one night when Dakota decided to read to Dominic and work with him on pronouncing certain words in the book. He praised him for his attempts at saying each word. I attribute much of Dominic’s rapid improvement in speaking to Dakota’s hard work, love, and patience. He could get Dominic to try to speak better than anyone else. Within six months of living with us, Dominic exited out of all of his speech and play therapy programs. I’m so proud of both of them.

Having the opportunity to give birth to a baby and raise a child is the one of the best prizes a human can win.  I didn’t understand it until it happened to me. Seeing his hopeful eyes every day, knowing that his life and happiness depend on me gives me the one and only feeling that changes people, that feeling of pure unconditional love. We all want and deserve it, but we don’t always experience it.  I do everything I can to make sure he feels my unconditional love every day. He’s Imagemy one and only Dakota and he’s inspired me to live better and love deeper. Being his mother has expanded my capacity to love and to have another one and only, Dominic. Dakota still teaches him and always will. He shows him how to build with Legos, throw footballs, shoot basketballs, and listen to directions. When I watch my two sons playing together, I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. No lottery ticket could top this!

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The “Never Forgets” By Darbie Andrews

ImageI brought in another box from the truck and paused just inside the entry way. Was this really my house? The white walls melted away with the continual movement of paint rollers. The old, dingy, and dull disappeared behind bright, bold, and fresh. I stepped out of the way as friends brought in more boxes. I sat mine down and grabbed more paint for another friend who stood high on a ladder to paint the upper corners of the kitchen. Then I brought duct tape to my buddy sitting on the floor behind the dryer. My cellphone rang; more help was on the way to finish painting and help me unpack. I smiled, but my eyes watered. I’d never forget it, the moment I realized that I’d reached the other side and the divorce had ended on another level. I was no longer broke, without friends, or fighting any legal battles. Yes, this was MY house. With the help of others and the undying need to move forward, I’d managed to create enough new joyous “never forgets” to overpower the painful “never forgets” of the past. Wahoo!Image

It really hit me when my friends who’d been there for some rough moments of the divorce walked in the front door of my new home and immediately started working. They grabbed paint brushes and rollers and painted nonstop. They were on a mission. I couldn’t believe how much time and energy they gave. Seeing them work so hard on creating a new home for me and my sons made me feel so incredibly loved. It was like they were painting away those hard times when I had cried to them about the lawyer meetings and expenses, the loss of half my retirement, the custody battles, and the loneliness of divorce,. They gave me new “never forgets”. Every time I look at my freshly painted walls I think of them and I will never forget their love, support, and hard work.

Then came the heavy lifting: appliances, furniture, bricks (yes, bricks). As soon as my friend grabbed the dolly cart, memories of my last move from the marital home shot through my head. My father had come to help. He and I moved everything alone. I’ll never forget the pain of that move. It felt like someone had cut me in half. In contrast, during this move, I felt complete and whole. Many friends came to help me begin a new exciting stage in my life. I’ll never forget how hard they worked and how much care they put into placing my things in the right place. They literally helped me move forward and claim a new lifestyle.

  As my friends painted and lifted, cleaned and unpacked, I wondered how I could ever repay them for all they’d given me. I hoped that I could give them some positive “never forgets” in the future or that I’d already given them some. Unlike the “never forgets” that I have intentionally worked for to overcome the pain of the past, these “never forgets” were a surprise. I didn’t expect the help that these wonderful people gave to me. That’s what made it even more unforgettable.

I’ll never forget the day, the real estate agent handed me the keys to my new house, but all the memories of people helping me afterwards, top that moment by far. Giving of our time and energy is one of the most powerful things we can do to make a difference.  Families give to each other because they are family, but when people step outside of their families and reach out to friends, it’s another level of giving.  We all have the power to create new “never forgets” for others and for ourselves. Sometimes the painful “never forgets” can weigh us down and keep us stuck, but only if we let them. The power of new beginnings, new memories, and new hope can move mountains.

I’m thankful for my painful “never forgets” because they have motivated me to seek new memories and experiences and they have taught me the power of moving forward and building a new life. Positive “never forgets” have helped me survive, thrive, and enjoy life. I’ve learned to value every experience and use it to create the life I want for myself and my children.Image

ImageMy oldest son who lives in two separate homes due to divorce chose bright green and blue paint for his room. My youngest, adopted son, chose baby blue paint. I handed them both a paint roller and said, “You’re going to help paint your bedrooms.” They both asked me why.  I replied, “Because you’ll never forget this.”  We need positive “never forgets” to get through the challenges moments of life and I hope to give my children and myself many more of them.