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A 5 Year Old Learning To Tie Her Shoes Brings Light To A Year Of Loss

Marissa’s shoes on the day she learned to tie them. (Courtesy)
Marissa’s shoes on the day she learned to tie them. (Courtesy)

A small domestic miracle happened this week in my family that I’d like you to know about. On Wednesday morning after doing an interview for this show, I went downstairs to help my daughters get off to school.

I found little Marissa, 5 years old, sitting alone outside in the driveway.

“Look, daddy,” she said. “I did it.”

Marissa had tied her shoes for the first time. I sat down on the concrete with her and almost burst into tears.

Later that day when Marissa got home from school, she did it again. This time I was recording.

“You did it!” I said. “How do you feel?”

“Proud,” Marissa answered.

I’ve been thinking about why something so small felt so big.

When Marissa took her first steps, I wasn’t there. When she said her first words, I didn’t hear them.

My wife and I adopted Marissa and her older sister Mackenzie last spring while the virus was just starting to tear families apart. We unceremoniously signed the paperwork on the hood of a social worker’s car because the courts had gone dark.

In this year we have gained and lost so much. On New Year’s Eve, my Godfather — my baseball-loving Uncle Pat — was lost to COVID-19.

He died alone in a hospital with a nurse holding his hand. And I’m sorry if that happened to your family, too.

The stress coursing through my body has reached levels I’ve never felt before. I’m short with the kids. I’m impatient. And for what, I don’t know.

And then, I’m hit with something like this. A beautiful brown-eyed little girl who just learned to tie her shoes.

“This side is hard for me,” Marissa said, tieing her left shoe.

“The left side is harder than the right side, isn’t it? But you know what, you did it,” I respond. “You’re getting bigger.”

Isn’t it something to know that if our fortune holds, the kids will grow. And though we are bruised, we’ll carry on.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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