A letter before your second birthday

Dear R,
It's been the one of the hardest years of my life. I can't even begin to tell you how much you've helped me this year. Since your last birthday you've learned how to walk, started using words, found your independence, and learned to sneak treats to the dogs. You've learned to blow kisses, jump, and all the motions of the "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
This past summer we visited Pittsburg and you got your first black eye. I was sitting right next to you when you fell face first into the leg of a table. It was a terrifying experience for me. By the time I got you up your eye was already swollen. I held it together until you went down for your nap, then sobbed into Bubbie, telling her how horrible I felt. "These things happen." She kept saying. Aunt Tina seemed tired, but spirited. About a month after we got back, she died. I felt so heartbroken that you didn't get to grow up knowing her. She fought fiercely for what she believed in-even if others didn't always agree with her or were tired of hearing of it.
We spent the summer going on a daily adventure. Your walking turned to running. We went to multiple parks, the library, splashed in the pool, frequented the baseball park, and toddled around the local malls. School began and I fought tears going back. Leaving you never gets any easier. Your Bubbie and Papa took good care of you, taking you to the zoo and the Children's Museum. But when Papa found out he was sick you started school two days a week. Oh, how you cried when we dropped you off at school. I cried too. I cried quietly walking out of the building. I cried loudly shutting the car door and driving away. I cried on my lunch break when I'd call your Bubbie on your days with her and you'd already be napping.

Thanksgiving came. Your cousins from Pittsburg came down. We all played and watched you. The entire family used you as a source of comfort while our hearts ached over your Papa. Hanukkah and Christmas came along with winter break. We planned all kinds of activities. You didn't understand why Papa was in a hospital bed. You'd bring him a truck or wander around looking for him. Watching it all, my heart would break a thousand times over again. The morning that we found out he died we were on our way out the door for a hike. We headed to Bubbie's house. You ran for your trucks and laughed. Your papa told me several times in the last few months how your laugh was his favorite sound. Here you were, laughing. The world's problems haven't touched you. In days since you've looked for him. You've watched me grieve. You've held my hand, cuddled me, and made me laugh. I don't know how any of us would have gotten through this year without you.
You'll be two this weekend. Two! It's been two whole years that you've been with us. I keep saying it- but it's hard to believe. I can hardly remember a time before you joined our family, but also can't believe it's been two years. I hope the joy that has been in these last two years stays with you forever. I hope you stay curious. I hope you stay carefree, lighthearted, and giggly. I hope you stay fearless. I can't thank you enough for how much you've helped me. I hope you feel the same. Your dad and I love you so much.