Call me Zoe. Please.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.  Helen Keller

There are lots of kinds of love.  This is a story about one of them.

I don’t know if I love my sister’s son more than other people love their nephews in general, but I think that answer may be yes.  And probably because I don’t have children.  I’ll admit it.

I had been trying to have a baby for 4 years.  When I found out my sister was pregnant just 4 months after her wedding day, I thought my heart would break.  Right in half and just fall out of my chest.  Quietly.  Poof.  Just like that.  To say I was not happy would be a gross understatement.  I wasn’t mad at her.  That didn’t even enter into my misery.  But then I saw him.  And it was love at first sight for me.

When he was little and he would cry, I could make him stop.  His mother could too, obviously, but so could I.  It was an amazing feeling.  He used to sit on my lap facing out at the “crowd”.  I would sniff his head.  Baby-head smell.  Is there any lovelier perfume on earth?  My sister worried he would grow to be an adult man paying hookers to sniff his head but so far so good.  As far as we know.  When he got fussy, I would sing the Yale Fight Song softly into his ear.  Boola boola.  Boola boola.  I don’t know why it worked.  But it did.  He probably dreams about that song and has no idea why.

Jake was about 5 and we were sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table.  There was a party going on and there were these little hot dog thingies wrapped in dough.  He picked up one of the thingies and waved it very close to my face.
J:  Do you know what this looks like?
S:  Yes I do.
J:  Well I’m not eating it (as he throws it back into the serving dish).
Grandmother:  Not gay.

This one’s about Dave, my very little cute poodle boy.
J:  If Dave and I were both hanging onto the edge of a cliff and you could only save one of us, which one would it be.
S:  (Looks around room and finds her dog and smiles.)
J:  COME ON!  HE’S A DOG!!!
S:  You should never ask questions to which you do not want to know the answer.

He had a well developed sense of humor.  Right from the get-go.

He can’t be more than 8 or 9 for this one.
J:  I think I’m going to give you a nickname.
S:  Really.  What are you thinking about?
J:  Either Zoe or Turdbucket.
S:  Well if I get a vote, I’ll go with Zoe.

He is bright, funny, well-read, a thinker.  When he was a teenager I used to like to put my arm around his shoulders and look at him very seriously and ask him if he wanted to talk about his “feelings“.  I believe I got this idea from my sister (tag-team torment).  Always got the horrified reaction I wanted.

When he was 12, his parents put him on a plane in Texas and I took him off the other end in Orlando.  I had vacationed in Paris for two weeks and spent less than I did on that kid in 8 days in Florida.  Not kidding.  He wanted me to rent a convertible.  I told him they were too expensive and they were.  About three times the cost of a little sedan.  But the more I thought about it, I felt he needed a convertible.  So I rented a little red Mitsubishi Eclipse.  Sunshine and sunglasses.  He was happy.  I was happy he was happy.  Whatever he wanted, if I could do it, I did.

A few years later.  He’s about 15.
J:  What ever made you become involved with BARC?
S:  Well I have a mentally-handicapped nephew and I wanted to do something…
J:  (interrupting) I’m your only nephew and I’m not…  HEY!  That’s not funny.
Grandfather:  Yes it is.

So now Jake is a young man.  He worked his way through college.  All by himself.  A couple of years at community college and then he transferred his credits to a state university.  And now he’s in grad school.  Most kids don’t work and put themselves through school at the same time anymore but MY nephew did.

Jake lives far away but he and I have had a lot of laughs over the years.  I wish he was closer but that’s not the way it has worked out so far.  We have done the best we can.  I turned him on to sushi.  And sake.  I always take him out for a feast when we are together.  I don’t care how broke I am at the time; I don’t have the kind of money I used to back in the Orlando/Paris days.  But there’s always sushi money.

Jake is often in my thoughts.  But I don’t call him all the time.  I don’t stalk him on Facebook.  He’s a big boy now and he doesn’t need his auntie calling him all the time.  But truthfully, I had to edit the crap out of this thing so I didn’t sound like my Great Aunt Elsie, may she rest in peace, talking about my 4-year-old father back in 1937 Abba Abba I cut my hair.  I would love to dote on him and talk about him incessantly but I control myself.

So Jake.  Here’s the thing.  I couldn’t love you more if you were my own.  I’m proud of you and you can always count on me.  If I can ever help you, I will.  We live far apart and I love nothing more than seeing you and spending time with you.  And taking you out for sushi.  Always know that I’m pulling for you and you‘d better call me if you need anything.  You know, besides money.  And I’d give you that if I had any.  OXO.  LYB.

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