“When I’m 20, how old will you be, Auntie Coco?”
The words brought tears to my eyes tonight, my thoughts going immediately to the idea that I would not be around to see his 20th birthday.
I have 10 nieces and nephews. Each of them are very special to me, whether they realize it or not. Unfortunately, I do not know most of them very well, nor do they know me. In fact, to some of them, I am the “old aunt” who is (fill-in-the-blank-with-an-adjective-that-may-or-may-not-be-accurate), their view of me being some story of me told to them by someone else.
That is how it is in some families. That is certainly how it is for me, being the oldest child of a family of five with two-and-a-half to four years age difference between each of us, and my growing up and leaving home at age 18 when I joined the military.
My youngest nephew, Aiden, was born six years ago today. I have had the opportunity to see him throughout his young life.
I missed his being born by only a few days, as he decided to wait until after I returned home to Washington to be born. I am glad , however, to have had the time my youngest sister during those last days of her pregnancy. I went back out in the fall and was able to meet him as a tiny infant.
A few months later, my sister, niece and nephew moved to Washington, and we have had the opportunity to build a family relationship over these last six years that has been relatively foreign to me during the previous 35 years. I have been included in and able to go to concerts and graduation, birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, and so much more. My youngest sister, who is more than 13 years younger than me, has helped to bridge and fill a large gap that was missing in my life, as circumstances of life have taken twists and turns.
Through my nephew, I have seen pure joy, as many receive with their grandchildren, which I was not able to see during these same stages with my own two. Once again, life’s challenges have prevented that, which affects the relationships we share.
Aiden has filled that void for me, and we have a special bond, as no other, even though we do not see one another often enough.
When I called him tonight to wish him a “Happy Birthday,” and he asked me the age question (followed by the, “when I’m 30, 40, and 50” follow-ups), I felt an incredible sense of fear that this cancer will take away the experience of joy of seeing him grow up. There was a sense of sadness that he, too, might not know the whole me I want him to know, just as with my grandchildren and other nieces and nephews.
I realized that as this little boy asked me how old I will be when, he does not have the same sense of time that I do. At six-years-old, he is in the moment, and lives for right now. Of course, he does not understand all the realities of life that he may face in his adulthood. He is simply living his life at six years old, excited about getting a bike and looking forward to his next birthday.
I was reminded of a big lesson tonight, when I called…
Live in the moment. Dream big. Hope for more.
I am looking forward to seeing him on Sunday at his party at Chuck E. Cheese’s, where I plan on being a kid with him. Laughing with him, playing with him, and his friends, my niece, my sister and whomever else shows up. I don’t care how silly I look or how foolish I may sound.
I look forward to the surprise on his face when he returns home (I’ll be there to see it) from the party, and he walks in to see the drum set that I bought him for his birthday and set up while he was away at church before meeting at the pizza parlor.
But most of all, I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with him.
Let’s see, Aiden…Auntie Coco will be 73 when you are 20…83 when you are 30, 93 at 40…and 103 when you turn 50.