Sadie at FIVE

Since you turned five years old a week ago, I’ve been annoying you by asking the same question over and over.
“Hey Sadie,” I’ll start, and your eyes will begin to glaze over, knowing what’s coming.
“What’s it like to be five?” I’ll say and you’ll look exasperated and give me the same reason as always.
“I don’t know, Auntie! It just feels good.”
Oh, kid. You kill me.
From the moment I watched you take your first breath and felt your warm and reassuring heartbeat on my hand as I lay it on your chest, you’ve had me. Not even a week after your birth, I had to get on a plane to Colorado to run a previously planned half marathon relay. I know today, if I told you that, you’d look at me like I was crazy. Auntie? Running? Was the world ending? Nope, bud. But in a way, my world was ending, a bit. I would go from running to paralysis to ICU rooms and then finally to the NIH, all in the next five years. So my world was beginning to change in the scariest ways, but I had a new buddy along for the ride.
Sometimes I frustrate your mom because I’m a cranky old lady who, like your sister, is a bit of an aggressor when it comes to getting what I want. So I’ll text your mother “VIDEO”; no please, barely a thank you, just a desperate call into my dope niece void. I’ll be in the hospital missing you guys so bad, it makes everything else hurt more. But then you’ll appear on my screen, cuddling Adelaide, singing me songs, making up Auntie dances, wrapping me in a thick cotton blankie of love. You’re always there.
The last time I wrote you a letter like this you were 3 and now you’re 5, and your world is opening in ways you haven’t even begun to imagine. You can swim now, and you’re so proud of yourself, and I am too. You can ride your Big Wheel ahead of me while I push Adelaide on the bike and I feel so lucky to watch the back of your head zoom away. You’re overcoming some big fears and doing it like a big kid. You tell me to stop spoiling you. You tell me you have enough toys. You tell me we should donate some of my books and your toys to poor people. You are incredibly empathetic.
And sometimes you break my heart. Because you worry about me. You know it’s not normal, all the time I spend in what you call the NIH: the superhero hospital. You say things that cut me deep; last week you said you prayed I would be alive forever and that I wouldn’t die soon. No one has ever used those words around you; we keep you protected, but you get it. Maybe what you don’t know, at this young age, is that your love is a force like I’ve never know. Your love pushes me out of bed. Your love makes me silly with your friends because I know you love when your friends call me Auntie, too. You’ve told me that. You also told me you don’t want me to have kids so you don’t have to share me. Hey, dreams sometimes conflict. Your greatest wish is that we live in an apartment together, just a pair of best buds, having your coveted special time with Auntie. Me too, buddy.
I love how you love New York City. I love that you love dinosaurs and princesses and Moana and superheroes. I love that you see my illness has being taken care of by superheroes: recently you asked me if my doctor was a superhero. I reminded you that superheroes are pretend and you said that you wished they weren’t, so they could fix me.
Whenever I’m in pain in front of you, you tell me to try not to think about it. And in the days I’ve spent in the hospital, or the nights alone and sick at 3 am, I listen to you. I don’t think about it. I think about you and the Ooga monsters, and everything seems alright.

On the night I laid my hand on your chest, I knew I’d do anything for you, beat anything that might come in between us. You are growing up, so lovely and kind, such a helper. I wouldn’t exchange these last five years for a damn thing.