The Anniversary Present I Can’t Stop Crying Over (it’s a good thing)
On the 7th April 2018, Michael and I celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary. Under different circumstances; we might have been the type of people who absolutely made a fuss about our most special day. But we are living in this life and when we got married the honeymoon literally ended when we returned home to the news that my parents marriage was ending.
A year later it felt awkward to celebrate our first anniversary as my mother moved out of her home and the reality of her being a divorcee dawned on her. Michael’s parents also thought that April was the best month to pay us a visit from their home in Kwa-Zulu Natal. My mother lived with me at the time. While it seems logical that I had three babysitters available for Savannah, she was not the reason we did not celebrate our anniversary.
While trying to get our minds around the fact that Savannah was a person with a disability; it was more complicated to navigate being newly weds while coping with our respective parents and their issues. I suppose in hindsight it wasn’t as big of a deal. Yet there are times I wish for a do over. I guess we all do at some point or other in our lives.
As the years flew by the toughest challenge in our marriage was being able to provide financially for a child with a disability. Therapists and doctors charge more than the medical insurers rates for their specialised services. Medical insurance companies have water tight clauses which leaves families with little room to manoeuvre when funds are exhausted. For many families like us funding the specialised therapies our children need usually results in our medical aid funds being exhausted by March of each year. It was difficult to work on a budget when our child needed therapy, special medical tests and special doctors. As parents we tried our best to provide for all Savannah’s needs as well as for Talisa and Eli too.
So celebrating anniversaries often didn’t make it to the top of the budget.
There were three years when we actually went away for the weekend. They were a good few years apart and were much appreciated. As we have grown older the celebration has become more about spending the day at home with the children and sharing a special lunch which my mother usually prepares.
This year Michael and I planned to go for a mid-afternoon late lunch to a nearby restaurant and that would have been the extent of our celebration. However on the Friday afternoon before our anniversary, we were told by our children that they planned a surprise for us for the next morning and we were to wait in our room until they came to us.
Promptly at 7:30 on Saturday morning our three children entered our bedroom with shouts of congratulations and gleeful singing. Then began what I can only describe as AMAZING.
Talisa and Eli explained to us that they wanted to do something for us that encapsulated what we had taught them. They said that they knew we made many sacrifices for our family and they wanted us to know they appreciated it. They practiced a line for Savannah to say: “Happy anniversary mum and dad. We love you”.
So began the morning. First Micheal’s left hand was tied to my right hand with a ribbon that had embroidered red hearts on it.
Then we were given our first clue. The clue was written on a square-shaped piece of paper that had the letter “O” printed on the flip side:
“The Roses are Yellow,
On this special day,
Where two hearts became one
Are captured in a frame”.
The clue led us to a framed picture of Michael and I on our wedding day that sits on my bedside table. Working together with our hands tied, Michael and I found our second clue hidden inside the frame. And so it went on, with us working out clue after clue.
Our children had written clues that took us to items or places in our house that meant something to us. Eli’s blue teddy bear that we bought when I was pregnant for him held a clue.
Savannah’s wheelchair held a clue that reminded us of her eighteenth birthday when she received her “Audi” aka her wheelchair with pink tyres.
Our bookcase held a clue and the clue that led us there paid homage to our favourite authors.
The funniest clue was the one on the bookcase. We had to sing aloud to one of Savannah’s childhood nursery rhymes. The clue told the true story of Savannah’s fish tank which was where the next clue was hidden:
One, Two, Three, Four Five
Once Vannah bought some fish alive
Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten
Then somehow they died again
Why did they die so soon?
Because the water was not cool,
Can you guess what it is?
If you can then go to it.
All in all in there were seventeen clues to represent each year of our marriage. Each clue touched our hearts more deeply than the previous clue. When we had collected all the clues, our last task was to flip the clues over and put together the words it spelled. I get emotional just writing about it now.
Our children said when they think about us and as they come to understand what life is about; they realised that we have taught them that no matter what “Love Never Fails” 1Corinthians 13v8. That was what the seventeen clues spelt out: “Love Never Fails”.
Michael and I were simply amazed. They planned this for three days; working on the clues and putting it all together. They woke Savannah up that morning and helped her with her morning routines. I had no idea she was even awake when we were waiting in our bedroom because they were so quiet.
It was just the sweetest and heart warming morning all wrapped into one. On that note about sweet, all three children also prepared breakfast. They made home-made waffles with bacon and maple syrup:)
Could it have gotten better than that?
I think if you as parents take anything from this post, let it be that all our children are learning the most important lessons of life from us. As parents the sacrifices that we make will hurt us a bit. But to know that we are raising children who are kind, empathetic, generous and loving is worth the sacrifices. I would give up all the anniversary celebrations we did not do, again and again for this past Saturday.
Talisa and Eli aren’t deprived or less fulfilled because they have a sibling with special needs. They aren’t angry that life for them means we have to go at a slower pace. They understand the preciousness of the moments that make life worth living. They aren’t afraid to love and to live.
What more can we ask for? As parents and as soul mates, Michael and I can say our hearts are so full.