The Haunting Face

It was the face more than anything else–the face that got up on Monday looking sad and pinched. It wasn’t the stomachaches at first; it was that face. Caitlin had always been in constant happy motion. The best hugger, the best climber, the most loving and thoughtful little girl. Now that happy face was sad from Monday to Friday every week. She was in first grade. 

Now she is about to turn 30. She has been married for two years to a wonderful young man, she has her doctorate in Physical Therapy, and she IS a working physical therapist. She decided that she wanted to be a PT when she was about 12 or 13. She aimed at it and worked toward it with the total focus that has characterized her life. 

This amazing, confident young woman is a wonder. But the Caitlin of today always reminds me of Caitlin the first grader, who changed my life along with her own. In the first grade, Caitlin had painful, debilitating stomachaches every weekday. Somehow on Friday afternoon she was fine—and she continued to be fine until Monday morning. 

I saw that sad, pained face every morning during that stretch of her life, and I had a theory about what was causing it.  I will never forget saying, “You know Caitlin, last year you were in a classroom right next to the one you’re in now, and you loved school and never had any stomachaches. The kids in your classroom then were mostly the same kids that are there now. The only change is that this year there is reading. I suspect that the reading is not working so well. I know a great book that the two of us could use to work on reading together.” Caitlin said, “Dad, let’s get in the car and get that book right now!” 

Getting that book changed us both. Thanks to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons Caitlin’s stomachaches went away in a week or so. Long before she had learned anything new, just the activity of making reading into something simpler, something she could do safely at home, eliminated her stomachaches. She was emotionally changed long before she was better able to read. 

Throughout her life Caitlin has worked hard on everything she does. She has always had a long-range vision. In high school, she already knew who she wanted to marry and, while she and Ed have had ups and downs in their relationship, they have been there for each other for almost half their lives. Caitlin has always possessed that ability to look forward, set a major goal, and then work toward attaining it. 

The look she had as a young girl haunted me for years. Throughout my work, that look has continued to be an inspiration and a goal.  I have seen many young children with that look and have tried to find a way to help them come back from that soul crushing sadness and worry. I now have confidence that those faces can become happy, lively and confident. The steps we took together as father and daughter changed both of our lives, and many other lives as well. 

I love you Caits. Happy Birthday.