The first time I saw her was in a photograph. Kellie and I were in an upper floor in a Soviet era building. The Russian official handed us a black and white photograph of a little naked baby girl. Her eyes captured the entire photo.
The first time I saw her in person was in that cinder block and concrete orphanage. The nannies carried her out and it that first instant, the bond was permanent. That girl was mine.
It's been the same ever since. Ferris wheel rides, pony rides, merry-go-rounds, McDonald's, and glances that communicate a thousand words. I'd die endless deaths to see her smile. There is nothing on this earth that is better.
She asked me to take her to the Father/Daughter Dance. My apprehension and nerves gave way that night as I led her out onto the dance floor. We abandoned self-consciousness and fell into the rhythm as the DJ graciously walked all of the awkward fathers and daughters into steps and movement.
The look on her face. The smile. The amusement. And finally, the abandonment. An hour on the dance floor, aware of the crowd, and yet somehow totally alone. We moved, we swayed, we laughed, and we screamed out lyrics out loud. Shoes were kicked off and the sweat dripped. Laughter held the world for an hour. It was heaven.
The night was about purity. Living a holy life and clinging to the best that God can offer to us. We danced that night, recognizing that our lives are not perfect, and yet... the grace of God offers us beauty. This life is meant to be embraced.
Maybe it's the photographs that frame our lives. From our first pictures together to our most recent... they tell a story like a stop-motion storyboard. Life is lived between the frames, in the rhythm, among the sweat and the laughter.
Aleks, life has taken us around the world more than once, and it has always been you at my side, holding my hand, looking into my eyes with a shine and a laugh. You bring life into my world. I am thrilled to watch your pursuit.
It was my honor to hold your hand for an evening. I love you. I am forever your father, your fighter, your ever-dreaming hero.