I have always been very close to my niece and nephew who are now 17 and (almost) 20 respectively. Or maybe I should say I used to be close to my niece and nephew. I give their mother full credit for raising them, but I have definitely had my influence over the years.
When my nephew was born I saw him every day. I could walk to my sister’s house so it was easy. He was inquisitive, bright and happy. I loved him like he was my own, and I say that even after having two children of my own. I fondly remember washing off the birthday cake from his first birthday party, chasing him around the kitchen, bringing him camping with a bunch of girls and watching him play video games until my eyes glazed over. He was quirky, lining up presents from his Christmas stocking before opening them up even at the age of 2 (who does that???), but his quirks made him all the more special.
When my niece was born I was actually living with my sister. My (now ex) husband and I were saving to buy our first house. He was gone a lot of the time as a new pilot so it made sense. I helped my sister and her (now ex) husband with the baby when she was born. She was playful, cuddly and stubborn. She held a special piece of my heart and against my sister’s wishes I would sometimes rock her to sleep just because I enjoyed the connection with her. My fondest memories with her include visiting the animals at the Friendly Farm, watching her smear dirt all over her face and laughing until it hurt. She reminded me to have fun and be carefree (at least once in a while).
When my girls were born the four of them naturally became very close. Even my nephew, the token boy at any gathering, found ways to connect with his little cousins, chasing them around, tickling them when he caught them, the group of them dissolving in to a pile of laughing, flailing limbs. The summer of 2010 I wasn’t working and I took the four kids everywhere. We would spend days camping, just me with the four of them. We’d play games and tell stories. We went for bike rides and swam in the lake. We played at the playground and visited amusement parks.
We were close.
Until I took my kids and moved them to Florida.
Once we moved everything changed. I tried to keep in touch with my niece and nephew via Skype but it wasn’t the same and eventually we all stopped trying. I became caught up in my own life; moving into a new house, taking on a new job, and struggling with my divorce kept me pretty busy. Then dealing with health and emotional problems took my attention. I went up to visit them once or twice a year, but we were no longer close. Things had changed, and not for the better.
It was several years before I started working on repairing this. It’s time I can never get back and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully repair the relationship with my nephew, although I’m trying. He’s basically nocturnal now, not getting up until late afternoon unless he has class, staying up until my day starts. He’s not very interested in telling me about what’s going on in his life but he knows the door is open. I’ve offered to buy him a ticket to Florida any time he wants to come visit (even though he hates the heat). When I’m up in NH I arrange to do something with just him; no one else. He appreciates that effort more than anything. I know he is grateful I’m willing to put what he wants above everyone else, even if it’s just a couple of hours. I’m the only one who does.
My niece has been easier. A couple years ago I brought her down for the summer. I paid her to watch my kids instead of sending them to summer camp. She’s done this for two summers, and my kids feel she is more like a sibling than a cousin now. We all keep in contact with her via text or FaceTime. We are more integrated in her life than in previous years. She will be spending this coming summer with us again, her last before she starts college. She is naturally more communicative than her brother so I’m much more confident that as the years pass we will continue to be part of her life.
Perhaps this matters to me so much because I come from a broken family, not just because my parents got divorced but because I have no contact with uncles, aunts and cousins who all used to be part of my life. They just faded into my past, shadowy memories from my childhood and nothing more. I don’t want that to be how this story ends. I want to mend this quartet and rebuild this connection. I’m going to text them right now actually. There’s no reason not to tell them I’m thinking of them. I’m going to do it…right now.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Quartet