Well, last Friday came and went and despite my best intentions and heartfelt vows to make sure I wrote something in this blog every Friday (even if it turned out to be a shopping list) the day slid through my hands. In my defense I was awfully tired; I don't have to explain why, do I? Anyway, the world -- my world, at least -- shifted a bit in a nice way last Saturday, and another link in the chain of our connected lives was added, joyfully.
I was hanging out at my house with my younger nephew, Russell, who was home from UConn for the weekend, and it is extraordinarily flattering that this 20-year-old whiz kid still makes time for his doddering old aunt (truth is, he's hip to how cool I really am, right, Russell?) Then the phone rang. Then our lives changed -- nicely!! Russell's older brother, Robert, had taken off for Florida for vacation with his girlfriend Kris, whom he had been seeing for about four years and living with for a little over one. We love Kris. She is smart, pretty, hard-working, a good cook, funny, down to earth and as I've told her more than once, has fabulous taste in men. (Kris would say "add stubborn, opinionated, et al" to that list. See why we like her?) The main thing is, though, she seems dedicated to Robert and his happiness and well being. Who could ask for more?
Now you have to understand that as far as these boys, my nephews, go, there is nothing I wouldn't do for them. Robert was the firstborn, and the first person I've ever met who I'd literally die for. I got to see him in his mother's womb when I went with her for her ultrasound; the images were murkier in 1983 than they are now, certainly, but I stood there and watched him swim, watched him kick a leg out and make his mother yelp. He was mine from that moment. In fact, he represented not only the future, but the past -- a return to the idyllic, unconditionally beloved childhood that was my brother's and mine. He was hope, he was all we could hope for. And for me, he would turn out to be the child I had never been allowed to have.
I put his mother to bed when she came home from the hospital, and for the first two weeks of Rob's life I was there from sunup to sun down. I bathed him, watched him in his bassinette and smelled him and touched his baby skin, and changed him and rocked him and sang to him and did everything except nurse him. If I could have breathed for this child, I would have. And as he grew and laughed and learned and loved, he never disappointed us with his grace, intelligence, humor, and zest. We could hardly have hoped to be blessed twice, but we were. For six years, though, Rob was an only child...surrounded by a gaggle of grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and his adoring Papa. But kids do grow up, and meld into the necessary workaday world that the rest of us deal with. The magic of childhood ends...and a new life looms.
"I have a surprise for you," Rob said to me over the phone last Saturday night. He must have -- why would he be calling me otherwise? In the space of seconds, I imagined him sitting in a little bar somewhere in Florida and running into one of my old cronies who he would be putting on the line momentarily. "What's up?" I asked, not without a little trepidation. Not all of my old cronies are really what you'd call...well...fine upstanding citizens.
"I got married," Rob said.
I can still hear him say it, but I couldn't very easily believe it. Rob is not the barefootin' big-grinning guy with his pants rolled up, standing barefoot in the sand of a Florida beach, holding hands with this dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty with white flowers in her hair that we saw in their photos. Can't be. Can he?
Yes, he is. All I have ever wanted for these boys, every moment I've laughed, cried, worried, fought for, bragged about, and hoped for, is their happiness, the walking through life and growing old with their beloved by their side, all that has -- alas -- eluded me. I welcome you, Kris, with all of my heart. I can hand him over now, secure in the knowledge that he belongs to someone now -- but I know that you know, you still have to share.