April 2018

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer #13: Prognostication

Summer #13: “What are birds' wings made of?” That's my sister's youngest son, Willie. He's always asked the most amusing questions. At least that's what Jennifer tells us. He doesn't talk to any of the rest of us adults. Last year, on the way to our wedding, he lost his favorite quarter, so Ann and I sent him a new Canadian quarter. He wrote us the first thank you note we've ever received from any of our nieces and nephews: “Thank you for giving me what I really wanted.” When he was younger, he was a clothes hound: he'd wail if he couldn't find his favorite red tee shirt. Once, Jack was wearing a red shirt just like the one Willie was wearing. Willie howled. It took his mother to console him, convincing Willie that he was already wearing his red shirt. Seeing wasn't believing, but what Mama said was. On the drive from New York to the North Carolina beach this year, Willie said he didn't like carrots, and Jennifer, bored with the drive, told him she had been putting carrots in his cereal for years. When he doubted her, she said that she had been bleaching them and cutting them into cereal shapes. He was flummoxed. “That seems weird, but I know my mom wouldn't lie to me.” Such trust, even after the tooth fairy betrayal. That boy loves his mama. My prediction for this creative thinker: playwright.

My godson Sammy, Jennifer's penultimate child, is Jenn's family's athlete. When he was born, he looked much like Jabba the Hut, and had so many chins he lifted his head late. He soon slimmed down on his diet of (only) chocolate milk. This fall, he was the “dirtiest” point guard in the New York state basketball tournament. He's quite the tennis player and remarkably personable. As a three-year old, he came to the dining room, sat on a chair by me and asked, “How are you, Auntie Mary?” We had a philosophical discussion about the state of the universe, and then he heard a noise from the basement, lifted his head, and said, “Excuse me. I have to go play now.” When his younger brother Willie was an infant, Sam would call timeout from “playing rough” with his older brother Jack. Sam would go to Willie, pat him on the head like Willie was a puppy, and coo, “So cute. So cute.” Sam's a natural now with his younger cousins, Lucie and Gretchen. He has always loved children and adored the men in his life: his dad the Wall Street whatever-he-is and his Grandpa the pediatrician. My prediction: Pediatrician.

My nephew Jack was born an engineer. He's twelve now, and he's an athlete, too. When he was much younger, dad asked him what his favorite sport was. He had many to choose from: he played basketball, ice hockey, tennis, and others. His favorite sport? “Chess.” I asked him yesterday what he thinks he might be. I guess he's been thinking about surgery because he said, “I wouldn't want to be a surgeon because it would be too hard when someone died.” I didn't point out to him that brain surgeons saved his mom's life and my life. My prediction: engineer.

My niece Isabella is the oldest grandchild and is so good at everything (school, sports, beauty, kindness) that a person might be bitter, but she's so kind that you can't help but love her. She does have an edge, though. Years ago, maybe when she was nine years old, she and I went for a walk down the beach, looking for sand dollars. Isabella stepped into a sand trap, and spun in a panic to get our of it. I stood frozen, aghast. When she got out of it, she looked up at me and said, “A lot of help you are.” This summer, my youngest nieces Lucie and Gretchen sat by the door awaiting their fairy princess Isabella. They, like the rest of us, love her. Today, I asked her what she thought she might be when she grows up. She's only going into ninth grade, and she sarcasttically responded, “An astronaut” as Ann said, “A firefighter.” They mocked me. My prediction: an astronaut (don't tread on me.)

Hayden is my brother's oldest. He is blond, blue-eyed and beautiful. He is a big fan. Even though all of his cousins love the Red Sox, Hayden wore his NY Yankees hat the whole time he was at the beach with all of us in North Carolina. For the World Cup, he bravely cheered on the Netherlands while the rest of us cheered for Spain. That takes spunk. When he and his younger sister Lucie were looking at old pictures, they saw one of the two of them together when they were younger. Hayden said to Lucie, “See, Lucie. I used to like you.” He's always got his nose in a book, a characteristic of his mother and his aunts, but not his father. My prediction: professor.

Lucie is my brother's middle child. When she was three years old, she alternated girl days and boy days. On girl days, her name was Lucie, and she wore dresses. On boy days, her name was Thomas, and she wore blue jeans and red Keds. She tells me she's an excellent athlete, especially good at hockey, though I think she says “athalete.” The month before she was going to be a flower girl in our wedding last summer, she and a friend were riding in the car with her mom. She said to her friend, “Guess what. I'm going to be in my Aunt Mary and my Aunt Ann's wedding. And guess what. They're both girls.” Her friend, astonished, responded, “They're going to have a lot of babies.” At our rehearsal dinner, Lucie said to me several times, “Auntie Mary, who are all these people?” I finally gave her the right answer: “They're our friends.” She seemed dismayed, “You mean they're all here for you?” I want her and all my nieces and nephews to see that gay couples, too, can have a community of support. At the home where I grew up, she saw a family picture from when I was eighteen years old. “Auntie Mary,” she said, “look at you then and look at you now. Wow.” And then, graciously, “You still have the same smile and the same eyes,” (gracious since now I mostly smile with one half of my mouth and my eyes are crossed), “But,” she continued, “look at all that hair!” It was the eighties. My prediction: athalete.

Gretchen, my brother's youngest, is the family performer. She's hilarious. Her hair is white blond and her eyes a limpid (a vocabulary word for the week) blue. Like Isabella, she's quite the sweet thing, but she's no push-over. In Raleigh, she got ready to play pool, and when Dad came in the room, she said, “You can be on my team, Grandpa.” When Dad responded, “Okay, but I'm not very good,” she said, “Okay, you can be on the other team.” She does an impressive hip hop to the theme from Scooby-Doo. Brother Matt and his wife Kristin call this, The Gretchen Show. My prediction: performer.

One of the hardest aspects of my brain tumors has been missing three years of the miracle of these nieces and nephews growing up. Throughout the experience, I have not feared death—only the loss of my sense of self—but I have been sad at the thought of my death and of the things I would miss, the miracles of all these nieces and nephews growing into people I cannot predict.

Love, Auntie Mary

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to blogland, Mary! I just wanted you to know that I am here, reading and laughing at your words. I hope others are here, too. I miss hearing from Rebecca, Jane, PeaPam, and others. Let's all start engaging a bit more (oops, I say this mere days before I leave for a 3 week trip to Australia where I probably won't be posting comments. But that just means the rest of you have to cover for me!)



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