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February 28, 2022 / JustinKays Porter

Cranes

In the first few weeks after Millie passed, I frequently relived this memory. It doesn’t really make any sense to me why this particular memory kept rising to the forefront in my early days of grief, but it did. It’s such a simple, joyful thing to remember; a child’s awe of things so much bigger than themselves. I always think of Millie when I see a tower crane on a construction site.

Just a bit of back story if you’re not aware: Our family moved to Chicago for Millie’s medical treatment in September 2019. We rented an apartment and every Monday morning made the trip to the children’s hospital for treatment. We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 and generally made it back home by lunchtime. Justin and I traded weeks, and we would call our hospital trips “dates.” Millie loved the one on one attention associated with the dates, even if she didn’t love the time spent at the hospital. We developed routines to pass the time and ways to make it all a little easier on our sweet girl. The nurses on the 19th floor are some of the most wonderful people we met on our journey (not sure if any of you are reading, but you’re all saints!). This memory is associated with our dates to the hospital… I finally got up the courage to write it down in July, but it’s something I come back to again and again.

When we lived on Wood Street in Ukrainian Village, our apartment was a straight shot west down Chicago Avenue from Lurie Children’s Hospital. Chicago Avenue is a main artery for people living in west Chicago to get to downtown, with three or four lanes of traffic going in both directions. This was before the pandemic lockdown went into effect, so the two-mile drive at 8 am on Monday morning took anywhere from ten to thirty minutes, depending on traffic, weather, and the luck of the Uber driver*.

The good thing about sitting in traffic with a toddler: there was never a shortage of things to talk about. Cars, buses, bicycles, buildings, clouds, flags, snacks, toys, airplanes, birds… you name it, we saw it on those drives. Lucky for us, there was also a major development going on between our apartment and the hospital, which translated to lots of construction. Dump trucks, excavators, jack hammers, hard hats, construction cones, extra traffic; all the bright colors and loud noises and even more fun things to talk about**.

Millie’s favorite part of the drive was whenever the tower cranes came into view. We would see their red arms over the tops of the buildings near the construction sites, before we actually got to the development. She would always show them to me excitedly, always amazed that they were still there. We would count the number of cranes, but there were so many Millie would usually get it wrong the first try. She always managed to skip four when counting. Numbers according to Millie went 1-2-3-5, which probably also explains why we couldn’t count the same number of cranes!

When the Uber driver finally, slowly, crawled through the traffic past the development, Millie would look at me, point to the machines and half-built shells of buildings, and say, “Daddy, work! Daddy, work!” A big grin on her face as she clutched tight to whichever friend she had decided to bring along on our date. She would point and wiggle in her excitement. A few moments later, the excitement was followed by a deep, contented sigh. The cranes were still there, the construction was still happening, and now we could go about our date. Millie was always so happy and proud of herself for making the connection of these big huge things to her dad. I don’t know if Justin has this memory***. I don’t know if they turned their necks to keep those cranes in view for as long as possible. But we did. And it always made my heart swell to know how much Millie loved her daddy. It made me love both of them even more.

*Yes, we took weekly Uber rides to and from the hospital with our two-year old in a folding carseat. And I have to say we got really good at getting in and out of the cars quickly… Millie was always tolerant of the frenetic exchange and I think she liked the chaos that surrounded the beginning of our dates. Except when it was snowing. Or super windy. But then again, I wasn’t super keen on the Uber rides to the hospital in the snow either!

**Revisiting this now, Nate would also have absolutely loved these drives, and for the same reasons. It makes me both happy and incredibly hurt to compare Millie and Nate, and in this case I know she would have loved to show Nate all the things we talked about on these drives.

***Turns out, he does. Which is not surprising to me at all, but it kind of made this memory hit home every more today.

6 Comments

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  1. Molly / Mar 7 2022 4:50 pm

    What beautiful memories of your “dates”. Darling pictures of Millie and how sweet that she connected her daddy to that equipment.
    Another well written memory that continues to touch my heart. Xoxo, Molly.

  2. nancywporter / Mar 3 2022 8:42 pm

    I love this memory just because I can just see Millie pointing out and joyfully looking back at the cranes. But then I love it more because she connected the cranes with her daddy. I know how much they loved each other.

  3. Susan Jackson / Mar 1 2022 10:40 am

    Oh Kay…you know I want to be able to lift your heart out of your chest and magically squeeze out all the pain and grief…if only there were magic wands…Millie was always in my thoughts on Mondays…I called them Millie Monday. Sent out all the positive energy I could manage….I know the double edge sword of memories but that little red sweater picture is the Millie I carry in my soul. Thank you for always being raw and real…love you more then you know.

  4. Lindy / Mar 1 2022 4:21 am

    Kaysea and Justin
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful, heartfelt memories of Millie. Know that we carry her in our hearts and miss her and savor the memories we have. You are always in our thoughts and often have friends ask how you are doing.
    Love
    Lindy

  5. Auntie / Feb 28 2022 8:26 pm

    Sweets, you are amazing and your writing is so magnificent that makes a beautiful picture in our minds of what you describe!! And what you and Millie have gone through!
    Very touching and thank you for sharing your feelings at this difficult time, knowing how difficult it must be.
    We love you and so sorry for what you have had to go through and lose such a beautiful and loving sweet little girl!
    We love you and sends hugs and kisses!❤️❤️

  6. Roni Hartley / Feb 28 2022 3:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing another precious memory; your stories are so thoughtful and well written I feel like I was on the “date” with you. Love always, Roni

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