My oldest daughter turned 18 today. She’ll be graduating high school in June, then leaving for college in August. All this growing-up and moving-away stuff is expected, I guess, but it’s sure happening faster than I’d like.

Those who’ve already sent a child off into The Great Big World know I’m muddling my way through a smorgasbord of emotions right now: happiness, sadness, nervousness, pridefulness, hopefulness, weariness, joyfulness, probably-should’ve-saved-a-little-more-moneyness. I realize I’m not going to like everything that’s ahead, but I’m going to keep moving in that direction anyways. For my daughter. She needs to know I’m always going to be there for her, no matter what. Also, I still owe her for that time she saved my life

When she was around 18-months old she started pointing to a mole on my chest and saying “Owie!” every time I picked her up. I mostly ignored the prodding though, because it seemed like a perfectly ordinary mole — the same size, shape, and color as its neighbors. She was persistent, though, so eventually I decided to have it checked.

That ordinary looking mole turned out to be stage II melanoma.

After removing the tumor and nearby lymph nodes, the doctors kept scooping away chunks of my flesh every few months to ensure I remained cancer-free. For years afterwards, I was spackled together with stitches, bandages, and scabs. Yet my daughter never seemed to notice.

The owie was gone, and she knew it.

I can’t explain why she started poking me in the chest all those years ago, or why she suddenly stopped. And that’s okay. Like children, life’s best gifts aren’t always well-documented. We just need to cherish them for as long as we can.

Originally posted on Medium.

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