I caught up with my younger nephew for lunch last week. I’d seen him a couple of months before when we went to the footy together, and in the time between he seems to have grown more. He’s 16 and about 6’3”, with the frame of someone who will grow a few more inches yet and fill out into a powerful physique. Right now he is very lean, as I was his age, and in fact everyone says he looks like me, though I don’t see it completely. He’s a lovely, gentle, sensitive kid, but he’s also had issues with his self-confidence.
We’ve always been close. I love his sensitivity, which is a greatly under-appreciated quality. I guess I appreciate having someone to care about too, and want to guide and support him as much as I can.
I’m an important person for him, I think. His father died a few years ago, but even before that he was absent, living in England. There are no male figures in his life but me, and at times it’s been hard for him without someone to lean on. He basks in my affection, and draws strength from it. I am family, but remote and disaffected from his mother, and it would be simple for me to fade away – not that I ever would. That I choose to remain in contact and speak intimately with him is a form of reassurance, proof that I see something in him worthy of love.
We had a pizza each in the Emporium, my shout, while I asked him questions about school and what he wants to do next, his friends and potential love interests. He was quite open with me, I think because these are conversations he can’t – or won’t – have with anyone else. I skirted any questions relating to his mother or grandfather, not really interested in any case, while in reply he asked questions of me about work, and what I wanted to be when I was growing up. Afterwards we went for a walk.
It felt strange in a way. He will grow into an impressive looking man, and even now he’s well ahead of the curve – Donna says she sees my nephews much as she did William and Harry growing up (my other nephew is tall and good looking also, though less so, and has done some casual modelling). He is taller than me now, though I’m still much the bigger, and beside him grizzled, and even wise. I feel older about him, and remember that the years are ticking. I realise how it must be as a parent and the feeling of passing things on. There’s no sense of loss in that, rather extending something which you already possess.
That night, or the night after, I dreamt of his mother. It’s been a year since I’ve spoken to my sister, and haven’t missed her at all. We always had a difficult relationship, and after we broke I acknowledged that I had never liked her. It was her doing – she took offence at an honest answer I gave to a question from her. She said she wanted an honest answer, but really what she wanted was an answer that confirmed what she hoped for. I had done that in the months before, but when I failed to on this occasion she took offence. She sent a bunch of very nasty SMS to me, and that was that. I haven’t missed dealing with her difficult personality.
I hadn’t dreamt of her once either, which was significant. I missed the kids, but she was out of sight and out of mind. Meeting with my nephew brought her back to me, though the dream was innocuous.
Then yesterday I returned home from work to find an interesting envelope in my letter box. Mail has become relatively rare these days, and personal mail almost non-existent. The envelope was coloured and across the front of it in fancy ink and script was my name and address. I opened it inside the house and found in it an invitation my aunties 70th birthday in December.
I’ll go, and I’ll be happy to go, and look forward in particular to see my cousins. But it also means that I’ll encounter my sister. I suppose it had to happen sometime, but really I would have been happy to put it off permanently. I’ll be civil and polite, I’ll happily break bread with her, but no more than that. There are family things I have been excluded from, and I’ve had to make separate arrangements in its stead. I’m not someone who holds grudges, but nor am I someone who will sweep things under the carpet. Even if my sister knows she has done wrong there is zero possibility of her apologising, or even admitting to it – my sister is one of those people who have never been wrong. Under those circumstances I am unwilling to return to a phony and convenient family arrangement.
It should be an interesting night, but I’ll have Donna there to lend support.