21 years ago tomorrow, I was given something I didn’t really think I needed or wanted. Turns out, I was wrong.
Often times, every time really, unexpected things happen when we think we have everything planned out. Especially when we don’t have everything planned out.
Not one thing.
That was me. I was finishing college, living at home with my father and new stepmother. We had created this modern little family, that was unique by design I suppose, but functional for us.
I had struggled with all of the age-appropriate demons in my early 20’s. It was really the first time I had done anything age-appropriate.
I had been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of five. I had to manage everything I ate and drank. I had to test the glucose content of my urine and eventually blood. Gross for an adult, unthinkable to a six year old. It wasn’t a footloose and fancy free childhood by any means.
Not that I am complaining. I have no complaints about childhood. I have great parents. I have great friends. I didn’t suffer, but I was forced into a maturity level decades past my ability and comprehension.
When my parents split up, I held it together because they needed to break apart. It was not easy. I had really no idea what was going on. I wouldn’t until I, myself got divorced 30+ years later.
As a result, I stayed in this harrowing balancing act until about the second I made my escape.
I mean, the second I went to college. Then it was time to process.
And boy did I process.
So much so, I came home, in my third year. Worn and weary, barely alive from a nasty infection that had sent my out of control diabetes even farther off the map.
Head held low, I returned home, and did my due diligence. It went like this – therapy, work, sleep, repeat. Then I added school and finally finished – with honors and a full time job.
Approaching what I thought was independence, I was “finishing” my stride.
And then, my father met a wonderful woman named Denise. She has been my stepmother for half of my life. I adore her.
I want to be clear. Marrying Denise has been one of the best things my father has ever done, but there were normal growing pains that went along with the union.
Shortly thereafter, my father and Denise announced that they were expecting a baby.
My brother Gabriel was born 21 years ago, tomorrow.
I took the opportunity then, to try and make a run for it. This is a survival mechanism that I know all too well. I’m going to lose you, before you lose me.
Raise your hands if you’ve been there.
I thought so.
I tried desperately to split. I didn’t want any part of this delightful new family. I would suffer on my own thank you.
But here’s the thing. My father wouldn’t let me.
He acted, by every known definition, like the role he was about to happily accept again.
The role of a father.
And I’m so glad he did.
While his delivery of expectations is not always, shall we say, sensitive, it is authentic. He will do the best for you, even if you do not want it.
You will figure this out in ten years or so Gabriel.
I stayed home for the next two years and what I got back is something so exquisite, nothing merits its worth.
I got a chance at a family.
My mother and stepfather (who I also adore) had my first sibling, Dalton, when I was away in New Orleans. I never got the chance to live with them as a new family.
This was my opportunity to straighten my big picture expectations on family architecture out.
I was there the day this little boy with crazy, dark ringlets was born. The day he learned to crawl. The day he learned to walk. I was there when he discovered black beans and rice and how much he loved to smear them all over everything.
I don’t know what it’s like to have a sibling close in age. That is not my reality.
What I do know is that because of our age difference, I was able to love my brother without concern about “what’s mine” and “what’s his.”
I have been able to watch him go through all of the normal kid stages into manhood.
Of course he was obnoxious. So was I. We still are. Sometimes at the same time.
Those are fun times.
That said, stemming from the very root of his existence, he has always been very kind and sweet.
He has evolved into a mature and extraordinary young man. He’s compassionate and artistic. Talent streams through his fingertips. Exceptionally funny and handsome too.
He, like my father and stepmother, is nurturing and generous and considerate. I hope to have soaked some of that in.
He is a remarkable human being and I have had a front row seat at his life.
I am the lucky one.
I am the one who tried to get away.
Something to think about when you think life is giving you something you don’t want.
Happy Birthday Gabriel, your niece and I adore you.