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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Guardian Angel Too Soon

Four years ago today my dad became my guardian angel.  In some ways it feels like we just lost him yesterday. I can close my eyes and clearly see his face.  Yet there are days like today when I panic and my heart drops because I realize I can't remember what his voice sounds like anymore.

That first Christmas without him passed in a complete blur.  I didn't put up a tree, buy a single gift or have any reaction to the holiday music that seemed to be everywhere.  The only saving grace was my one and a half year old nephew, Mason.  A simple smile or giggle from him helped crack the deep depression my family had sunk into.  His little face gave us something innocent and pure to concentrate on.  Without him, we may not have made it through that first Christmas.

Children have a way of making you forget your problems and appreciate the little things.  Piper has helped my heart heal, while keeping my dad's memory alive.  When she smiles, her eyes crinkle like my dad's and you can't help but to notice the same mischevious twinkle.  I talk to Piper all of the time about her Grandpa Duda.  In fact, I have a photo of my dad holding me when I was a baby hanging in Piper's room.  She loves to look at the photo and wave to Grandpa.  There are times on my commute to/from work that I hear Piper giggling and talking in the backseat.  I have no doubt that Grandpa Duda is along for the ride and entertaining her.

Last year was the first Christmas that I truly felt like my old self.  Having a sweet baby as an intricate part of the celebration can't help but make you feel good.  This year, I look forward to watching Piper run around and play with her cousins.  I know my dad would be thrilled to see the kids.  He adored Mason and always said that next he needed a granddaughter.  Now he has two.  Piper and my three year old niece, Maddie.

Everyone always says that he is still with us and sees Piper, but what I wouldn't give to hug my dad one last time and to see him cuddle Piper.  For now, I'll go hug my little girl and today, we'll continue the tradition of sending a balloon to Grandpa in heaven.  Only this year, my guess is that the balloon will have Elmo on it.    

I feel blessed to have such a wonderful guardian angel watching over me and keeping my sweet Piper safe and sound.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Elmo the Extraordinary

It's amazing how an Elmo balloon from the dollar store can invoke pure joy from a toddler and make you realize that money doesn't buy happiness.  Delving into the frenzied holiday crowds of people shoving, pushing and speeding through parking lots highlights this point even more.  

I love this age and time of year.  Piper is fascinated with simple things like seeing an airplane in the sky, hearing a puppy bark or exploring an empty box.  Putting blocks in and out of an empty box can provide hours of entertainment.  It's amazing to catch a glimpse of the world through Piper's eyes as she's discovering new things.

I want to enjoy her fascination with Christmas lights, glitz and music as long as possible.  She claps her hands with glee whenever we walk through stores decorated for the holidays and greets everyone we pass with a big "hello" and a smile.  No one has every hesitated to smile back at her :-)

How great is it that at 18 months, I can purchase holiday presents for Piper right in front of her and she has no idea.  Heck, I could wrap up toys she already has and she would be thrilled to open them.  Now that's not to say I haven't fed into her recent fascination with Elmo.  Hence the balloon and an Elmo doll that's sitting high in the closet, wrapped and ready for Santa to put under the tree.  I must admit, I can't wait to see her reaction when she unwraps Elmo.  If Piper's reaction to the doll is anywhere close to her reaction to the Elmo balloon, it will be one of the best Christmas memories to date.