After three long, agonizing months in and out of intensive care unit in a Minneapolis hospital battling pancreatitis and fighting for his life, my dad is set to come home to the ranch in a few weeks. Friends are calling wondering what they can do, making plans to clear the driveway, buy groceries and welcome him back, and we are so very grateful.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Congratulations North Dakota! You've made it to the end of the longest month. From here I can see spring — if I stand on the top of the highest hill, on a rock, with my binoculars, but probably only because February's a short month and the past week we've had a break from the sub-zero temperatures long enough for us to find optimism and wrangle the toddler into her snow clothes and play outside.
My 2-year-old stood before me, her little pastel jewelry set draped around her neck and wrists, and took a bow. "I a queeeennn!!!" she declared as she bent down to the ground and stood back up, beaming before sprinting down the hallway for more props. Queen. This is not a label we parents have given to her, but one of many she's picked up for herself as part of the pretend world she's creating, the way a 2-year-old should.
I woke up to the sun slowly appearing over the big hill that faces our tall windows. "One ribbon at a time" is a quote I read somewhere describing the sunrise, and I recite it in my head as the pinks, purples and golds appear in the sky just long enough to transform and fade into blue. Some mornings I don't take the time to notice it the way I used to before the babies arrived, but when I do, it always reminds me of the reasons we moved back home to the ranch seven years ago.
You guys, this parenting thing is no joke. I say this as I'm celebrating my first month spent working to keep two kids happy, healthy and out of harm's way. And by out of harm's way, I mean so many things. Like encouraging the toddler to be helpful, but not the "pulling-her-infant-baby-sister-out-of-her-swing-to-change-her-diaper" kind of helpful. Or the "shoving-the-pacifier-back-in-her-tiny-mouth-with-the-strength-and-grace-of-a-hippo" sort of helpful.
Christmas is here. The weatherman on the news this morning is warning us of the impending winter storm, the kind that will blow cold arctic air in from Canada and give us a gift of a white and freezing holiday.
Rosalee Gene came into this world quickly on Friday, Dec. 1, at 9:14 am. Before she was born we hadn't decided on a name, so we agreed we would need to meet her first. And when I met her I knew. I looked up at my husband looking down at the squishy, slimy, dark-haired little human resting on my chest and he said he knew too. "You say it first," he said. "Rosalee," I said. "Yes. I think so too. Rosalee."
Editor's note: Jessie Veeder and her family welcomed daughter Rosalee "Rosie" Gene on Dec. 1. Mother and baby are doing well, and we offer our sincere congratulations to them! Please enjoy this column written in 2011 while Jessie and her family settle into being a family of four. The Merriest Christmas to all of you! To honor your friendship and support I am giving you a gift that has been enjoyed by many families around the countryside here Christmas after Christmas, courtesy of my momma.
By the time you read this we will be a family of four. I'm writing this from a borrowed laptop in the basement of my best friend's house in Bismarck, waiting on a baby who has shown us that it's not safe to drive the three hours home, because we might not make it back in time to deliver. It's fitting really for this to be the sort of in-limbo news I'm sharing considering the tough and unpredictable month we've had as a family.
In the hardest times of our lives it seems we are reminded to be grateful. Grateful that it isn't worse. Thankful you still have your health or your loved ones besides you. That the cut wasn't deeper, the hit harder, the sickness more violent, the call closer. That in the end, we should be grateful that they're still here with us. Or be thankful that they're in a better place, even if you're not sure you believe in that place anymore.