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August 24, 2016
Dana’s first daughter was born on August 24, 1990.
She was born in a very small rural rice farming community in Taiwan, and for her birth, my parents flew over from Hawaii. My dad put together a rocking chair for her mom, Jeanie. We assembled cloth diapers and precious tiny baby clothes.
Dana and Jeanie named her Yu Han, which means, “all-inclusive jade,” meaning that she would have all of the qualities that jade has. Beauty, resilience, strength, longevity would be hers.
Dana and my own Swedish great-grandmother’s birthday had been August 24, 1890, one hundred years to the day before Yu Han’s. While we didn’t know our great-grandmother at all, we were tickled by the connection, the symmetry in dates.
Dana and Yu Han were close. When Dana and Jeanie split up, Yu Han chose to follow Dana back to the United States from where they were living in mainland China. None of that was easy for her: imagine, a 14 year old girl moving on her own from China to the US? Her spoken English was fluent at the time, but her written English was not. Added to that, she had the rawness of someone who is completely unfamiliar with American culture and the awkwardness of adolescence spent in China.
She took all of this in stride and powerfully shifted as she integrated into her new life in Northern California with Dana.
Now, turning 26 with Dana in the ICU.
My heart ached.
It seems from my camera roll that I only took one photo that day. I know that can’t be true; I must have used my big camera and not my iphone, but I don’t know where those photos are right now.
From the sign behind my mom’s head, I see we went to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner. I remember now that we had a corner booth that was tucked on a side. I remember that the restaurant was full, and that Mack and Moxie would seemingly stagger their requests to go to the bathroom so that as soon as I came back with one, the other had to go. I felt like I spent my evening in the bathroom.
I also remember squeezing in between tables and trying to restrain Mack or Moxie from running too fast, from crashing into things or people.
I remember being sad.
Looking at the photo makes me smile though, because right here and now, it only reminds me of Dana. Mack looks like Dana, and when Dana was 4 years old, he would do exactly this: make faces in front of the camera and be goofy, crazy, hilarious.
And I would sit by him and laugh and laugh.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.