I met this young man when he was three hours old. I had just come off the airplane from Germany, getting ready to start my second year. My brother met me at the airport, and affixed to his shirt was a button.
“It’s a boy!”
The previous Christmas, my brother had called my parents and me to tell us that his wife was pregnant.
I remember falling to my knees in the kitchen, my hands covered either in flour since I might have been making cookies or potato peelings because I would always help Mom make the mashed potatoes.
Regardless, I praised God for this news, thanked Him for the gift of a baby, and prayed for nothing to go wrong. That moment resonates still, to me, with the incredible power of faith and prayer.
And so, flash forward to August and I am exhausted and walking off the airplane and thinking only about going to my brother’s house and falling asleep. Except for that button.
“It’s a boy!”
The exhaustion fell from me and I know I must have hugged Peter (my brother) exuberantly. I likely asked about my sister-in-law, wanted to know that she was well. I will confess, though, that I likely didn’t care. I had a nephew.
An honest-t0-God nephew. And all I wanted at that moment was to meet him.
We arrived at the hospital and went straight to the nursery. Things were so much more relaxed at that time. I think I wore a gown to help prevent infections. Regardless, we were brought back into the nursing station where my nephew was receiving his first bath.
I grew up reading fairy tales and watching Disney movies and hearing stories about falling in love at first sight. By this point in my life, I had gone through three very short romances, none of which were “love at first sight.” My first boyfriend only wanted to have sex with me (and I wasn’t about to), so he cruelly ended our relationship with “Another feeble attempt at poetry? Baaaddd poetry?” and then walked away.
I don’t know that I’ve actually forgiven him for those cruel words.
Boyfriend number two was a lovely young man who was intimidated by my black humor. That relationship was about two days in length.
Boyfriend three….a week. No sex meant no boyfriend.
So, by this point, I was pretty jaded about the idea of love at first sight. I didn’t believe in it. It was a myth and relationships, for me, were a bunch of mythtakes (get it???).
And then, I walked into a nursery and saw this tiny baby receiving his first bath.
And I fell in love at first sight.
God, I loved my nephew. As often as possible, I would visit my brother and sister-in-law. And, to be honest, I really don’t know what they were doing other than being great parents to this amazing child. My nephew was beautiful and wonderful. Even now, I can still remember the first time I held him. I was sitting in one of the uncomfortable hospital chairs and rocking him. And I quietly pledged to devote my life to him.
I would like to say that I fulfilled that pledge.
For the next three years, I did my best to be present at everything related to my nephew. I celebrated his birthdays, saw him dig his finger into his first cake. I watched him catch his first fish (I still even have the picture).
I remember the beautiful crescent of his smile, the way he would jog around the house, the sound of his laughter.
When my nephew was just under three, his little sister was born, and I fell in love again.
And then, shortly after his third birthday, I met a distractor….my future husband.
Now, I am not blaming my husband for pulling me away from my family. That’s stupid.
And, no, I didn’t fall in love with him at first sight.
My nephew (and niece at this point…but since this blog is about my nephew….) was the axis to my orbit. Anything he needed, I would have gladly given up my life to make sure he was provided for. After my two years in graduate school, my (now) fiancee and I moved to where my brother and his family lived. I had my first teaching job and that year was incredible.
I saw my nephew every week, spent hours with him. We’d play video games and joke around. I took him out for meals and just tried to do everything I could to be the best aunt to him.
At the time, I even made him and his sister the beneficiaries of my life insurance policy. My fiancee and I kept on having issues that threatened the solidarity of our relationship and I wanted to make sure that if I died that…well..that someone I loved with my whole heart would receive the money. I know that what I wrote wasn’t the nicest thing…I’m not trying to be ugly.
It’s just that…I was growing up and learning how to be a better live-in-partner. I’m thick headed.
Eventually, though, my fiancee and I made our way past all those obstacles and I found my way down a colonnade aisle and stood beside him and pledged my life to him. And we shed the nicknames of “fiancee” and became husband and wife.
And my nephew was there and nearly fell over the edge of a waterfall.
That’s okay…I was pounced on by a cat…but that’s a different story.
My nephew taught me how to be a mother. I used to babysit him and his sister all the time, and in watching them interact and in talking with my nephew, he unspooled for me all of his frustrations and anxieties and helped me see what it means to be a big brother. To be the oldest child. To be the guinea-pig in terms of parenting.
He taught me to listen to both sides of the story, to take out time and listen to the older sibling because, just like me, my daughter will shriek louder than my son. Which means that I scream out my son’s name before I think that maybe my daughter’ setting up my son (because little sisters never do that). My nephew made me see that someone she who shrieks loudest isn’t always in that much pain….(and I’m not bashing my niece here).
By the end of the my first year of teaching in the city where my brother and his family lived, I no longer had a job and eventually moved to the city where I currently live. I got married. And within a year and a half, I had my son. Three more years later, I had my daughter.
And the ability to visit my brother became insanely difficult. And I live in a tiny house which is not that great about hosting visitors. And, eventually, the years unravelled and my nephew did this weird thing called growing up.
And going to college.
And meeting this fabulous young woman.
And getting married.
And over the years, I allowed the distance to grow and then I felt weird because the distance had been created and I didn’t know how to bridge the distance. I allowed my reticence and shyness to replace the enthusiasm of my love for my nephew and I sealed my lips and stopped making phone calls.
And just lived.
But this last Christmas, while my nephew was making hamburgers, he said something very meaningful to me.
And the distance suddenly lurched to a close and I found that a little rope bridge had always been there. So I took a couple of steps and..
There he was. Like always.
My nephew is a craftsman and an artisan. He has made his own forge and thirteen months ago, he made my husband and son knives. They are gorgeous words of art that are practical and lovely and meaningful. I am sentimental. My husband is not. But he appreciated the fact that I had these knives specifically made for him and our son. And the fact that my nephew, whom my husband has also peripherally watched grow up, made the knives made the gift even more meaningful.
Yesterday, I bought the domain for this blog. For a year, I had thought about it. But money became tight. I was forgetful.
I was intimidated.
But I want to write. I want to be considered a professional writer. And to do so, I know that I need to have a literary platform. And it wasn’t enough for me to have a blog. I wanted my own world, my own name. My own domain.
So I bought my blog’s domain. And posted about it on Facebook.
And my nephew, my beautiful, wonderful nephew contacted me. He’s a computer genius (He probably has some special names that I couldn’t tell you what they were) and he’s offered to help me set up a professional website. An honest-to-God professional website. A place where I can showcase my writing and keep up with my blog and have something that might make a literary agent take notice.
I am ready to go out into the world. I want to learn more on how to edit poetry and start sending it off to professional literary magazines (even saying this makes my stomach knot up).
And my nephew just threw down a handful of stepping stones for me.
Last night, when we were on the phone, as he talked with me about what to expect about web design and said all these really cool abbreviations and acronyms which were meaningless to me, I heard the years fall away once more. I loved how we were equals. Not aunt and nephew. Just two adults, two family members talking about something that, in a way, we both loved. But for different reasons.
I’ve been shy about writing about him. I think he reads the blog. I thinks my family reads my blog. I don’t ask…it feels weird. I know that my son has asked me to stop writing about him because he’s worried that I’m going to embarrass him.
But I also know that with my fragmented memory that I need to commit these moments to some form of permanence, even if it’s in a fragile digital hemisphere.
I love my nephew and his wife. And now that the snows have melted and the roads are open…I think it’s time to go for a visit. I’ll bring some flowers. Or some chocolate. Or some stories about me falling in love at first sight with a tiny baby being bathed for the first time.
I’ll just keep out the embarrassing details.