Life moves quickly, and it seems but a blink and our oldest child has grown up.
The pink little baby that came into the world six weeks early (it makes sense now; she was itching to get started) and changed our lives forever. The chattering (got that from her mom), storytelling (ask her aunts about the wool she has pulled over their eyes), apple of her daddy’s eye (she can talk his wallet open with hello).
Yet, last week we watched her walk down the aisle for college for her last official ceremony — her nursing pinning ceremony — becoming Ashliegh Marriah Vallieu, RN, BSN.
A lifelong dream of hers had come to fruition for her — and for me.
You see, all you can do is have hopes and dreams for your children. That they grow up and become good people. That they become active members of society. That they make good personal decisions for themselves — and others.
I got that and then some. I got a daughter, a beautiful, intelligent daughter, that genuinely cares about her family, friends, those in need, animals — you name it. She’s not perfect, never has claimed to be, but she’s close enough for me.
And, along the way, no matter how many lessons I believe I have taught her, here’s a few she has taught me:
• Courage — She’s brave and adventurous — has been since she was a young child traveling with Dwight Eisenhower’s People to People out West when she was only 10 to help on an Indian reservation and learn about other cultures. She was gone for two weeks and said she wasn’t coming home. I believe she would have eventually, when she ran out of money, but she would have stayed for a spell, even then. This week she’s in Belize as we speak offering health care to those in need as part of a nine-day mission trip with her college. I believe it is just the beginning of a lifelong journey to far-reaching places for her to help others. When she returns, we’ll have a going away party for her, just in time to move her to the place she will start her new life, Charleston, S.C., with her longtime friend, Josh.
• Level-headedness — We’ve given her all that we can. It’s not always been the best or the most, but it was what we had to offer. She recently thanked me for just that. She said she had seen too many people that had life handed to them on a silver platter that didn’t appreciate what they had — and may never as a result. She worked during high school around all of her many activities, put gas in her really, really used car, and learned the value of a dollar along the way. I would have thought that she may have resented us for not being able to always pay for her gas or pay off her college loans, but instead she thanked us for making her have to work hard to have a car and a college degree.
• Determination — Although she has had set backs in her life, she has never given up on what she truly wanted. If she failed at something, well, that just made her more determined to beat it the next time. And, generally, she did. Now, the world is her oyster and she will be a priceless pearl to those who get to walk it with her.
• Morality — Her moral compass is beyond reproach. She does the right thing, almost always. Also, she stands up for others — and her herself — when she believes something just isn’t right. It’s actually caused conflict in her life so far, but she has stood her ground for what she believes. Add this to courage, too.
• Love — She loves her family, friends, pets, even strangers. She has shown me what true love is, through her love for me and her family, her friends and their children, even our dogs that can’t wait to see her when she walks in the door. She brightens a room with her priceless smile (although I have the orthodontia and dental receipts, so priceless might be a strong word). She has been a granddaughter that has walked through her grandpa’s death and grandmother’s dementia and cancer diagnoses. She’s been a niece that her aunts know that will come through for them no matter how little or big the need. She’s been a big sister that has tried (good grief she has tried) to guide her little brother, Caleb. He’d never admit it, but he looks up to her. And, she’s been a daughter to parents who have watched her by far exceed their expectations as a person.
Next week we’ll drive her to her new home several states away. One door has closed and another is opening.
Like I said, life is but a blink when you are a parent.
We love you baby, have a great ride from here — we’ll be watching from the wings now.
And Charleston, you’re getting a good one. Keep her safe for us.
Melody Vallieu can be reached at [email protected], (937) 552-2131 or follow her on Twitter at @TroyDailyNews.