A few years ago, while studying abroad in London, I took a Creative Writing course. For the anthology we were required to compose, I wrote this piece about my nephew. The only folks who have ever seen this are that course's instructor and me. I eventually turned this letter into a short story per her recommendation, but - to be frank - I've always preferred this first draft to the final edit I submitted.
Today, my nephew turns 13. He's a teenager now. All those dreams I had for him when he used to fall asleep on my chest now can become reality. I don't know if that makes me more happy or scared. But I do know I've loved him more than I could've ever imagined 13 years ago. He's made me prouder than I can ever articulate. But here goes nothing.
Happy thirteenth, Tyler. I love you. Thank you for helping me grow up.
To my nephew:
I remember the day I learned your mommy was pregnant. At 11 years old, I was going to be an uncle, and I was excited for all of the wrong reasons. Soon I wouldn’t be the one sent to the basement for Sprite and waterbottles and Oreos. That was going to be your job. And even better, you wouldn’t only be doing that for Granny and Gigi and your mommy, but I would be able to send you for a juicebox when I was thirsty or a box of Frosted Flakes when I was hungry. I had every intention to boss you around. I figured it was the way things had to go. All my grief had to be given to you.
And then you came. And I loved you. But you didn’t love me back. One day, your Gigi and your mommy had to leave the house and I promised them I could watch over you until they came back home. But they just laughed. “He won’t even let you hold him.” And you wouldn’t. Every time I picked you up, you would start crying and fighting me. My grand plans to boss you around once you got older soon went out the window. I couldn’t exactly tell you to do stuff if you hated me. Either you wouldn’t do it or you’d just hate me more. And I couldn’t afford having my nephew hate me.
You eventually came around. You were 2 the first time I got you to take a nap. We were laying on the sofa in the living room at Granny’s house, and you were laying on my stomach. I pretended like I was sleep and I opened my eyes 5 minutes later to see you had actually fallen asleep. But once you started liking me, I couldn’t get rid of you. We were so used to being around each other everyday that you were confused once I moved out of the house for high school. “You’re only here on Saturday and Sunday now,” you observantly told me. But your mommy brought you to all of my football and basketball games. You yelled louder than the adults when I caught my first touchdown. I didn’t even see you as my nephew anymore. You were more like my little brother.
And that confusion you had when I left home for high school was full-out anger when I left the state for college. You wouldn’t even look at me when I came home for Christmas. I understood. I’d left you once before, but not like this. You could at least depend on seeing me twice a week while I was in high school, but now you were only seeing me twice a year. I’m just happy you forgave me. It was hard for me to not have my best friend.
I’m so proud of you. It’s amazing to me that you’re in the fourth grade now. I remember that time I had to pick you up from school and your kindergarten classmates couldn’t believe your uncle was so tall. Now you’re almost as tall as me. I hope you become better at basketball than I ever was. I hope you’ll be the smartest kid in your class, just like your uncle was. Just like I motivate you, you motivate me. I want to do good so you don’t have to worry about anything.
I love you, nephew.