Dear Julia ~ by Jeff Katz

Dear Julia:

jeff julia swing 1I’m writing you this note on March 7, 2018. Today is the day that you turn 15 years old. It’s an interesting day for me and Mom, but it’s another day for you. You’re not like other kids, my sweet. You’ve never made a big deal of your birthday; you’ve never asked us for any type of a special gift. Not for your birthday, not for Chanukah not for Christmas. You’ve treated each and every day in the same way. Mom will wake you up and you’ll have a smile on your face when you see her. She’ll play some of your music and you’ll smile even more. You may laugh or giggle or squeal but there will not be any words. You won’t complain about having to go to school. You won’t be happy to hear that it is a snow day. You won’t celebrate the fact that today is fifteen years since you were born.

jeff julia walkingMost fifteen year old girls would be thinking about clothing, college or a car. By fifteen, many Dads have already had to warn their daughters about some dopey boy. But today, you’ll watch your favorite episode of Jack’s Big Music Show, enjoy your cereal and be on the lookout for cookies wherever you can find them. Mom and I know that you will be with us as long as we’re alive, but we worry about what happens after we’re gone. You have two wonderful brothers and I pray every day that we have raised them well enough to know that they will need to look after you some day. You may be our middle child, but you’ll always be the baby. Even as you get older according to the calendar, as Mom told me yesterday you are timeless. You’ll always be my pipsqueak despite the fact that the years are flying by.

HEIDI JULIA JEFFNo, we’re not exploring potential careers or making plans for your wedding. We’re still hoping that we’ll be able to help you move from diapers to the potty some day. You live today the same way you did when you were about 18 months old. You don’t speak and you only recognize a few words but oh the words that you know. Kisses and cookies! No matter how filled up you are, there’s always room for a cookie or two. You don’t understand when I ask you how your day was, but you become laser beam focused when you hear the crinkle of the wrapper on a package of something sweet. No matter how sweet that candy, it’s still eclipsed by your genuinely sweet smile.

So many people live their lives asking for things, demanding things, accumulating things. Most people never take the time to stop and savor a piece of cake or breathe deeply to appreciate a gentle breeze like you do. I hear people in this world use horrible insulting language to describe kids like you and I want to shake them and yell at them. Some mock disabled kiddos like you and I feel like crying. You don’t understand their words, but I do. Sometimes, I really wish I did not.

We never thought you would crawl let alone walk, but you showed us. Your situation and challenges and disabilities have caused me to question my belief in God on some days and have served to strengthen it on others.  You don’t speak but somehow you are able to brighten my days in ways that I never imagined. Without a single solitary word, you’ve made me a better man and touched countless people. Hearing you cry ties my stomach in to knots but your giggle is truly the happiest sound that I have ever heard.

I know you’ll never read this nor would you understand this if I were to read it you. So let me just say kisses and cookies, Jules Bagools. I tell you today what I have told you on every March 7 since 2003, Daddy loves you more than you will ever know.