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Gary Borders: Teenage years are a joy with Abbie around

Gary Borders
Gary Borders
Gary Borders

We met six-and-a-half years ago at Pizza King in Longview on a spring Saturday afternoon. She had a cheese pizza. Mine was veggie, extra jalapeños. Her blond hair and cherubic face with flawless skin captured my heart.

As we sat down, she held one of the Harry Potter novels in her arms like a shield. She was 10 and eyed me warily. Who is this funny little man coming into my life, she no doubt wondered.

Abbie is the daughter of the woman who would become my wife. Now she is my daughter as well, and I am blessed.

Last Saturday, Abbie turned 17, which seems hardly possible. She is on the cusp of adulthood, getting her driver’s license in a couple weeks, and visiting college campuses. It is boggling to realize she will be enrolled in college in about 21 months.

The day before, I bought her breakfast and took her to school. As I have done for the past six day-before-birthdays, I told her, “Abster, this is the last day you will ever be 16. Make the most of it.” As always, she smiled and rolled her eyes.

Abbie is blond, blue-eyed, drop-dead beautiful and turns teenage boys’ heads when she walks by. Of course, I want to shoo them off with a broom or possibly a shotgun. She has turned into a serious, organized student. She takes classes that we can’t help with: pre-calculus, physics, advanced Spanish.

She has a fine eye for photography and shoots many of the photographs for the yearbook at the small private school she attends. She is our go-to person for technology, of course, whether it is figuring out how to do something on our iPhones or getting Netflix to work on the television. Teens seem to have a natural aptitude for this digital world that escapes us older folks.

I have learned over the years to rely on her sense of direction if we are in a large mall or trying to get back to a hotel while visiting a big city. My wife and I are worried about how we will find our way around once Abbie is in college, or who will figure out why the wireless printer has suddenly quit working.

Her best attribute is a huge heart. I worry how many times it will be fractured by folks who are less than kind, or let her down. She is naturally trusting, tries to think the best of everyone, and truly does not have a mean bone in her body.

She is a teenager of course, which means Abster (as I usually call her) has pulled a few stunts. But it has been relatively minor stuff — far less than many parents must endure. It has been a joy to watch her mature and become someone who is going to make a mark on this world in some fashion.

Right now she plans to become a lawyer, after spending the summer working at a law firm. She will argue with a rock, I joke, so this might be a good idea. I just know she will succeed at whatever she attempts, because of her strong will.

Abbie has endured some terrible tragedies in her young life, far more than someone of her age should have to face. It has of course permanently marked her, but if anything she has become even more resilient, stronger in her faith and able to continue down a good path.

I don’t tell her often enough how proud I am of her, how happy that she came into my life, and what she means to me. She and her mother, my wife, have enlarged my life beyond measure. I am a lucky guy.

Gary Borders has been an East Texas journalist and editor for more than 40 years. He works now as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. You can see his work at garyborders.com. He has written for World Wildlife magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer and Airstream Life.