On Being an Uncle When Love is in the Air

sky heart

My nephews from the Central Valley couldn’t make it up here for Christmas because — gasp! — they were working!  As in they actually have jobs!

I’m so proud of them.  My 24 year old guy is attending nursing school and working in a renal dialysis center.  My 30 year old guy has worked for years as an EMT in the trauma center of a major hospital.

Although we didn’t get to share the holidays with them, they took a train and a bus to spend a few days with us this week.  Meanwhile, one of our nieces who lives an hour north of here (also employed — rep in a large health insurance company’s call center) drove down and our two nephews and one niece who live close by have been in and out all weekend.  This meeting of the cousins’ club is now in session!

Some of us made it to church this morning.  Then there was an informal lunch as we all fixed sandwiches, pickles and chips and sat in the living room catching up, with my little grandniece running between all of us, not knowing what on earth to do with so many aunts and uncles.

We’ve been giving the younger crowd space to enjoy the pleasure of their own company, particularly since they don’t get to do this all that often.  Last night, they went out to dinner and tonight they’re off to play billiards and, presumably, to listen to music and have a few drinks somewhere.  We’re here at home watching the little one while her mama is serving as the designated driver for the boys.  Good girl!

My nursing student nephew feels like a kid in a candy store.  Apparently there is one guy for every five women in his class.  As for my trauma center nephew, he dropped the bomb when he arrived last night.  The man is in love.

About 1:30 in the morning, we had a long talk that warmed my heart.  Even with some of the family being close by, I don’t have the opportunity for these “uncle moments” every day.  They always appear out of the blue and they always leave me open-mouthed, wondering “wow, did that just happen?”

Author Raymond Carver famously said that “it ought to make us ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”  And I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I have no pearls of wisdom to offer.  I take it one day at a time, just as all of us do.  Life’s a dance you learn as you go, dear nephew.

He was afraid that we wouldn’t think well of him when we learned that his new love is ten years his junior.  I reassured him that much greater age differences separate some couples.  When two hearts speak the same language, age becomes little more than a number.

Of course, his sister and cousins gave him a good-natured ribbing about robbing the cradle.  But we’re all really happy for him and can’t wait to meet her.  My nephew shared with me that he’s been seeing one “sign” after another that he and his girlfriend are meant to be together.  I gently suggested that coincidences regarding names and numbers should not be accorded much weight.

“Is this a serious thing?” we all asked him.

“Very serious,” was his reply.  And so, in our late night talk, I attempted to convey whatever wisdom I could conjure up from fifteen years of marriage.  “I know this sounds more than a little cliché,” I began, “but it is important to have someone to live for.”

“Yes!” he interrupted.  He’d been thinking exactly the same thing, he told me.  He had been feeling aimless, he confessed, with the chores of life a drudgery that was dragging him down.  Until his lady love came along.  Now, he says, he feels a sense of purpose.

He tells me that he’s been plagued by self-doubt for years.  Why is he thirty and still single?  Is there something wrong with him?  He’s heard the whispers and the familial concern.

It’s not like he hasn’t had girlfriends before.  He even shared a home with one for a little while.  But this — oh my goodness, this is something else, something entirely new.

I learned that the two of them are both in the medical field and are both living with and caring for close family members with serious health issues.  They have met each other’s immediate families and have received a universal vote of approval.

They will face challenges, as every couple does.  She works in the daytime while he’s been on graveyard for years.  They live an hour away from each other and usually meet halfway for dinner before he goes in to work.

I tried to assure my nephew that difficulties can be overcome if both parties are committed to make it work no matter what.  That there will inevitably be times when both of you feel like giving up.  You say you feel so honored to hold her hand.  But it is at the not-so-lovely times, when you may least feel the emotion that so consumes you now, that you most need to do just that.

I hear the sound of two hearts singing.  Now melody, now a tight harmony.  Soprano and tenor, rising over and dipping under each other, dipping gingerly across and through, like an aural tango.  Yes, dear nephew, I hear all of this when you talk about her.

You passed around a photo, and we all oohed and aahed admiringly.  We get a kick out of teasing you when you whip out your cell phone and head for the bedroom and close the door.  We understand the longing you must feel being away from her for just a few days.

We’ve all been there.  Some of us remember the feeling fondly.  As for me, dear nephew, may you be as blessed as I have been, with the fire continuing to burn brightly as the years turn into decades of love.


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