We did it!
Here we are!
August 10, 2016. 25 years later. Wow!
Do you remember talking about it? Do you remember wondering what we would be like? How many kids we’d have? Where our careers would take us? Where we’d ‘be’ in our lives? If we’d actually be ‘we’ at all?
I’m serious. There were days; for both of us. Our first 10 years were rough, there’s no denying it. Neither of us was well established with a job, let-alone a career. I was struggling with finishing my education, we lived with my parents for more than half of our first 10 years and then we moved into a home that did us well, but we jumped too fast at it. We went through the turmoil of our first pregnancy ending in a miscarriage only to joyfully welcome our first child less than a year later. That brought our marriage to a whole new level that I don’t think anyone could ever be fully prepared. We were no longer Tracey and Mike ~ we were now Mom and Dad. What the hell did we know about being parents? Nadda. We struggled through it like all new parents do. We fumbled and we made mistakes but we learned. We learned what Matthew needed. We learned how to grow to a family of three. We also learned very quickly that we couldn’t imagine our life without him.
A few years later we decided to add to our family. We excitedly anticipated our new arrival. What we received instead was the biggest life lesson either one of us has ever experienced. We learned that our plans are not always the plans. While we did welcome our new arrival, we had to say goodbye to her in the same instant. Emily was brought to us with a purpose that, for me, solidified every single day of our existence. Emily’s birth and death defined us as husband and wife. Nothing we experienced prior to nor anything we have conquered since has brought us together in such a significant way. We became ‘adults’, we stepped up to the plate and we grew together on July 17, 2002.
Did she know what stood ahead of us? Part of me thinks so. I truly believe Emily came to prepare us, to strengthen us and to guide us through what would become the biggest challenge we have ever encountered. The following 14 years would see us walk a road that no one ever could have anticipated. While we journeyed through our new world we were introduced to an amazing team of supporters. We learned what advocacy was all about and that having an autistic child was more a blessing than it was a hindrance. Again, there were days; it certainly wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns but whose life is? Ultimately, Matthew taught us a lifetime of lessons. Much more than we ever taught him. There were days that we had to dig down so deep I don’t know if either of us knew whether we’d be able to find our way back toward the light. We learned how to draw on each other’s strengths. When I was weak you could be strong and when you wanted to lose your cool I could calm you.
In the midst of our adventure, we were handed another treasure. Sure, at first we thought it was a cruel joke but we soon came to see that, as with everything, there was a reason. After seventeen years of marriage, after losing our precious Emily, and with a son who was now eleven and a half years old, we were given another child. Marcus was certainly a surprise for all of us. He has continued to surprise us with his tenacity, sense of humour and pure heart since the day he was born. As Matthew said best: he made our hearts complete.
See Mikey, little did we know twenty-five years ago what those vows would mean. For better or worse, in sickness and health, through good times and bad. We vowed to love and cherish each other and stand side by side in this thing we call life. Even though we didn’t like each other many times over the past quarter of a century, I can honestly say that we have loved each other. We respected each other and we trusted each other. We didn’t always agree nor did we always find a common ground before we went to bed at night. We said words in the heat of the moment that hurt and we argued over some of the most ridiculous things we could ever imagine but we always returned to each other.
Team Hilliard was formed well before we realized what we were capable of accomplishing. Team can be defined as a group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job or object. Team members operate with a high degree of interdependence, share authority and responsibility for self-management, are accountable for the collective performance, and work toward a common goal and shared rewards. A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.
That’s us. Plain and simple. We interdepend on each other ~ all of us. We draw on each other’s strengths and depend on each other to step in when needed. We’re like a well-oiled machine. If we’ve learned nothing in the last 25 years we have learned how teamwork is essential to any type of success. We’ve even learned that teams aren’t always successful, and that’s okay. When a team falls a little short it gives members the chance to look at how they are distributing their qualities within the group. Every member has the ability to lead. The hardest part is developing the proper dynamics and getting to the point to understand when the most unlikely member needs to take the reigns. We each have strengths that not all members possess and although the presumed weakest link may not stand at the forefront most of the time, we have seen over and over how when we least expect it, our team is pulled back together by the most surprising member. We all have a part to play. Sometimes it’s a supporting role and sometimes it’s the lead but without the entire cast, there would be no production.
Thank you for standing beside me. Thank you for leading in front of me and thank you for letting me walk ahead. Thank you for knowing what I’ve needed before I did many times over the years. Thank you for pushing me beyond anything I ever thought I was capable of and thank you for letting me learn the hard way. Thank you for standing by me when the word ‘team’ did not exist in my vocabulary. Thank you for being you, even when I didn’t think ‘you’ were the one for me.
You are, always have been and always will be my Dream Come True.
After twenty-five years I am truly blessed to be able to say You’re Still The One.
Happy Silver Anniversary, Mikey.
Until next time…