Claire has known about email for a long time, but it was only recently that she discovered that some of her friends have their own email addresses.
“Mom!” she said excitedly one day last week, “all of my friends have email addresses and I need one too!”
I’d waited a long time for this. Actually, Shawn was the one who had looked forward to setting up Claire with an email account when she was old enough for one. In fact, when she was only a few months old, he told me he had secured an email address for her.
I remembered the email address. But I couldn’t remember the password. “I think I need to break into Daddy’s email and try and find the password,” I told Claire.
It took a long time, and a lot of verification codes, but we finally got into her email.
The first three emails were from her Dad. I started crying before we opened them. I showed her how to open the email, and then I read the first one aloud with tears streaming down my face.
Subject: Your first email address
Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Claire, This is your Dad. We set up this email account for you when you were only 3.5 months old. Right now you are far too young to use email as you barely realize that you have functioning arms, hands, and fingers. We love you very much and I wonder when you will be old enough to use this. Please email your parents when you start using this account. Love, Dad.
I laughed out loud while I kept crying. “Oh, mom,” Claire said, hugging me.
“It’s just that dad was funny like that,” I said. “It reminds me of how witty he was.”
We opened the next email.
Subject: Happy one year birthday
Date: Sunday, April 11, 2010
Claire, This is your Dad… Shawn Brimley. You had your one-year birthday party 2 weeks ago. You were hilarious, smashing your face into your cupcake in front of about 25 people and your grandparents on Skype. I also put my face in a cupcake and kissed you on your lips. It was funny and you laughed. The last year has been the best of my life because of you and your Mom. I love you so much and I can’t wait to see you every day. You are the best thing that ever happened to your Dad. Happy birthday baby. Love, Dad.
Well, I cried a lot at that one too. The final one was a date I’d forgotten, though I remembered the moment immediately when I read it.
Date: Sunday, September 12, 2010
Claire – this is your Dad. You are growing so fast and I love you so much. Today your Mom told me that we are going to have another baby soon! So I hope you will be a good sister to your new baby sister or brother. I know you will. I love you. – Dad
That was it – he had only sent her three emails, and all had arrived in the first year and a half. Probably once baby #2 (Austin) came along, we got too overwhelmed to do things like this. Austin and Tommy don’t have email addresses, so clearly this was something Shawn did for our first kid, but not for the others…kinda like the baby books I made for Claire but not her brothers. (Sorry boys!)
Claire got right to work emailing me, her friends and Grandpa Tom. We sat on my bed and I re-read the emails from Shawn and I cried and cried. “Oh, mom,” Claire said again, patting my leg for a minute before turning back to her email account.
She wasn’t sad. She was happy to have the emails from her dad, but she was equally as happy that she had new emails from her friends. The magnitude of the moment was a bit lost on her.
I don’t mean to make her sound flighty. Someday, she will read these emails from her father and know how much he loved her from the day that she was born. Someday, she’ll watch the videos he made for her and realize what great strength it took to make a “life advice” video for her just a day before he died. Someday, she’ll know how powerful it was that he left these digital memories behind for her. A record of his love.
But that day, she was just happy that she was old enough for this big thing called “email.” She was so excited that she had her very own email account, and she sent me a dozen emails in the first hour, complete with 9-year-old emojis.
It was one of those perfect moments in time and I thought, “I’ll always remember this.”
It should have been his moment with her.