Will is doing great. We are doing well. But when people ask, “how do you do it all…work, trips, family, foundation…how do you hold it all together,” we always respond. “Barely…we barely hold it together.”

Why barely? It is hard being the parent of a preemie. You know you are a better person for your child. You celebrate the successes — walking, getting up on skates, being moved into a pre-K class aimed at mainstreaming. But your focus is on what remains — potty training, talking, eating, state control. The road behind seems long. The road ahead seems equally long.

And sometimes it all comes to a head. It becomes just too stressful and challenging. It did so today when a car ride back from Santa Barbara became too much for Will. He broke down. Threw a tantrum. Crying. Throwing. And unbuckling his car seat. We are stressed. So bad, we pulled over on 101 to get him calm.

No luck.

Then a CHP patrol car pulls up. I start walking towards the officer. Stop. The officer walks up, asks what is going on. I tell him — and he calmly says, “This isn’t the worst place to stop, but I’ll stay to ensure you are ok.”

I want to tell him to go, but stop. Will slowly starts to calm down — well, he calms down after the officer tells him his police officer Papa would want him to calm down.

And then for some reason, I sense bewilderment on Officer’s face as to why such a big boy had such a big meltdown. I feel compelled to share, “he was born really early — and even though he is four, he still can’t always calm himself.”

The simple question back is “how early?”

My response is “24 weeks and 5 days.”

He looks back and says, “my daughter is in the NICU right now…born at 25 weeks.”

The dialogue then rapidly flows with sharing of progress and setbacks. Fear and hope. He wants to talk. I want to talk. We both walk away a bit more balanced and relaxed. The magic of the universe has given us the chance to have the first of what will hopefully be many conversations.

And darn it, isn’t that magic in the universe special!

In this encounter, we — Brittany and I — are reminded to shine lights on the beautiful, successful path that we have trod. And we hope that the Officer got a glimpse of a wonderful future for his daughter. That is a special random encounter. And it is a reminder that if you put down the newspaper, shut down the computer, turn off the TV, push away the negativity, and just talk with those around you…friends, colleagues, strangers…then you will be reminded that the magic in the universe is humanity. Human compassion and kindness.

Btw — it also reminded me that unbuckling a seat belt is another motor skill advance!

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