When I was a kid and I thought about the future, I never looked past the year 2000. It always seemed so far away. Until I was 18 (1985), I always thought of myself as an adult perpetually stuck at the age of 33.
In February of 1986 I became an uncle when my nephew was born on the 28th (I think you may see where this is going now-blatant hint) and my life has never been the same. I used to think of him as I did of me, incapable of getting past a certain age. I could never see him past the age of five because he was so much fun to be around when he was a toddler. But, obviously, he did pass being five. And then ten. And then thirteen, sixteen, eighteen-all certain milestone ages.
When 2000 came and went, I readjusted my thinking about the future, since I had made it to 33 and kind of felt like I wanted to keep going. Both of my parents were 33 when I was born. It seemed like a plateau age.
Then my father died a year or so later and that line of thinking changed too. I started thinking about life not in terms of age, of years past, but of years to come, years left. And it occurred to me that when my nephew reached twenty-one, I'd be pushing forty.
My nephew turns 21 today. I will be forty in May. I don't feel like I am about to be forty. I feel like I am barely past 21 myself. And obviously, I don't see my nephew as 21.
Ah but he is. He's taller than me. He could probably ball me up and stuff me into an empty soup can (though he will never be my equal mentally-BWA HA HA HA!). I look at him and he's no longer a kid. He hasn't been for a long time now.
But he's one of the reasons why I feel nowhere close to forty.
I had no idea what being an uncle was going to be like. I had plenty of them when I was young but they were all so much older than me and I always thought of them as authority figures. I didn't want to be a nineteen year old authority figure, so I wasn't. I don't think I ever have been. I have three nieces and two other nephews now and I don't think of myself as authority figures to them either. They are all wonderful to be around, one after the other, the last three within ten months.
Being around my nephew so much from the first day of his life introduced me to a lot of things-how to care for infants, babies, toddlers, small children, etc.-things I had never thought of before. I'd like to take some of the credit for the way he has turned out. He's thoughtful, generous, even-keeledand hasn't caused an ounce of trouble ever, but those are all things he learned from his parents and his grandparents.
I'll take credit for his sense of humor. He is almost as funny as I am.
There is an episode of M*A*S*H where Radar is in trouble because someone has stolen a gun belonging to a colonel recuperating at the 4077th. Hawkeye and BJ know Frank Burns has the gun. When they confront him about it, Frank denies it. Hawkeye explains to Frank that if the gun isn't returned, Radar could be sent to the brig.
Hawkeye then says to Frank: "I'm very fond of Radar. He's both the son and pet that I've never had."
I would say the same thing about my nephew. I may have three cats now, but I'm still waiting for a son. Or a daughter. And when he/she comes, I will be ready because of my memories of being around my nephew when he was young.
And if I am lucky, he/she will turn out as well as he has.
So happy 21st birthday nephew. You were an outstanding child who became an outstanding young man and you are now an outstanding adult. You have no idea how much you have affected my life and the lives of everyone around you.
You've been very lucky, and I think you know that. We've been lucky too, and I hope you know that.
(PS-remember that I wrote this when I am 85 and need a place to live)