A Unique Path to Becoming an Aunt

One of my favorite roles in life is being an Aunt.  I love my nieces and my nephews.  One of my nieces, I now consider to be my daughter. That is because we had the opportunity, when others could not, to raise this beautiful child.  And our lives have been enriched because of it.  Truly, when people suggest that she was a lucky girl to have us, I object, because we are the ones lucky to have had her enter our lives.

When I travel around the country, I love to include visits with my nieces and nephews.  Watching them grow and become independent makes my life feel fuller.  Fuller because I see the hard work of my siblings and in-laws paying off.  Fuller because watching the next generation gives me hope for the future.  Fuller because they make me laugh and I can enjoy them in ways that do not involve all the responsibility of raising them.  I am not yet a grandparent, but I think it is even different than that because, I believe, grandparenting involves a level of support and commitment just a step away from being a parent.

We have also had the benefit of having some of our nieces and nephews live with us for various periods of time.  Living together is truly a great way to get to know people on a much more intimate level.  It is also a gift that our children get to know their cousins better, too.

Historically, it’s been hard for extended families to be well connected especially as people have become spread across the country and the globe.  This is one of the benefits of social media.  We can now be connected in ways not possible a few short years ago.  So, even if we don’t get to see each other every day or even once a year, we know what is going on in each other’s lives.  And we are better connected.

Which leads me to this past January.  Because I am rather active in the use of social media and on the Internet, my name is out there.  I use my maiden name, rather than my married name.  There are personal reasons for this, but since it is an unusual name, I am fairly easy to find.  If you are looking for me.  Or for one of my family members.

Last January, I received a private message on Facebook from a young man asking about my brother.  This young man had been given the name of his father, a man he had never met, and had been searching for him.  Turns out that man was my brother.  They were connected and confirmed their relationship with DNA testing in March.  Yes, in March, I found out I had a new nephew.  A fully grown new nephew.

In April, his mother, the only parent he had ever known, passed away unexpectedly.  It is hard to explain, but my heart ached for this kid, whom I had never met, but with whom I felt a strong connection.

But, I was also realistic and shared with him and with my brother that you must take things slowly.  With this, we have experience, too.  When my daughter, who was my niece by birth, decided that she wanted to try and connect with her birth mother, it did not turn out as she expected.  And, while the situations were dramatically different, it’s easy for people to build up unrealistic expectations and then to become disappointed.  It happens all the time with family members who’ve known each other their entire lives, and it can happen with family members who are strangers to one another.

So, this past week, my nephew, my new fully grown up man nephew traveled 16 hours by bus, leaving his home and past behind him to meet his father, my brother, and this side of his new family.

My sister and I met them at a local restaurant bar for lunch.  After 16 hours on a bus, he was tired and hungry and scared and shaking.  And we fed him and talked to him and then let our brother take him to his new home.  I think my brother was overwhelmed, too.  We asked the waitress to take our picture, but the manager walked up and volunteered to do it.  I think he thought we wanted a picture of the Harley Davidson motorcycle that was behind the bar.  He made us walk back there and took a picture of us that was really consumed by the thing and not us.  Kinda irritated me.

My brother and his son.

But, this past weekend, after a few days of getting accustomed to his new home, we had a family get together to welcome our newest family member.

My brother’s fiancée with my new nephew.

My brother is having quite a year.  He is turning 50.  He has decided to get married for the first time.  And he had his first kid.  An adult kid.

A picture of the cousins.

My brother has quite a road ahead of him as he learns what it is like to be a parent firsthand.  For the rest of us, it’s a little simpler.  We get to enjoy getting to know this new kid in our lives, get the benefit of lots of hugs, and give as much love as we can without the responsibility of parenting.

I love being an Aunt.  Even if the path to becoming one is a little unique sometimes.

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7 Responses to A Unique Path to Becoming an Aunt

  1. Pingback: Happy 50th Birthday to My Baby Brother | Mama's Empty Nest

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