Today is my nephew’s 22nd birthday. I think. I’m a horrible aunty. I know his birthday is the 18th of August, though, as I was there in the hospital, sat through the 30 hours of labour that my then sister-in-law endured, and then was there to hold him with his pointy little conehead. His head was so pointy from trying to be born that he couldn’t wear the baby toque that they gave him for going home (it rolled right up).
He was a good kid – smart, compassionate, and took care of his little brothers. My brother had, by the time Taylor was a preteen, remarried, and had had three other kids, all boys, so there was a total of five boys in the extended family. Taylor and Jeremy (his brother) they were bounced from house to house for their entire lives it seemed as my brother and his first wife broke up shortly after their second child was born.
Fast-forward to my brother’s second marriage break-up: he didn’t even see it happening. He was focused on school and making extra money for the family, and his wife at the time locked him out of the house and he tried his best – from what we were told – to reconcile whatever differences there were. My brother isn’t a saint, I realize, but from where we stood it seemed awfully cold that his wife – that seemed to support him and love his kids – would just turn a complete 180.
My brother wasn’t in good spirits. His family had just cracked in the middle. I remember it was the beginning of August. It wasn’t long after that we heard that my brother’s *first* ex had dropped the bomb on Taylor once his birthday came: Taylor wasn’t my brother’s boy. My ex-SIL had decided to give that as my nephew’s gift for his 18th birthday.
We were shocked, but also not – he didn’t look like my brother (our whole family is larger with dark hair, and Taylor had blonde hair) and the timing seemed to link up with strangeness that was going on with the family at the time 18 years before. I had met a man that I was dating in Vancouver who just happened to be cousins with a guy that worked for my dad and it always creeped me out how fast word of my goings-on in Vancouver would get back to my family. Turns out that my then sister-in-law was having an affair with this guy who worked for my dad. So we were heartbroken, but we were worried about my brother. Apparently he had known ALL ALONG.
I’m not privy to what happened, I am not a fan sometimes of my brother, but from what I gather, my not-nephew was not pleased. There was an altercation, and then our family lost contact. This crushed us – I not knowingly at the time, but my mom and dad specifically. Taylor was my mom and dad’s first grandson of my brother’s and their first grandchild since my nephew Eric was born; not only that, but we spent so much time with Taylor as a kid looking after him and seeing him grow that he was more than just a nephew or a separate part of the family.
So fast-forward to today. I looked at the date, and it just about brought me to tears. That whole family broke my damn heart, so much. Not only did I not get to see any of my brother’s kids grow up because they lived so far away, but also because it seemed that visiting us – or keeping in touch with me* – was not a priority, but now with this it just cemented my role as aunty where I didn’t get to reap any of the benefits of having those kids around. “Be a good aunty” they say, if you don’t have kids… well, I’ve never known how to do that. I’m not a person to knock down walls, or to push myself on people. I’m not that aggressive. But I see pictures of my good friends with nephews and nieces that have been a part of their lives for the entirety of their lives and I am SO jealous. I’m jealous that they got to spend time with the kids growing up and I’m jealous that they get to see those kids turn into young adults.
Where does that leave me today? Taylor – from what I understand – has cut off communication with this side of his “family”, which, after going to therapy, I can understand. This whole support group of people who he thought he was linked to by blood is no longer “there” and he needs to get to know a different support system… one that was not allowed to get to know him as a child. And yet, it’s the 18th of August and I’m a teary-eyed asshole who can’t get in touch with my “nephew” to wish him all the best. I think that’s all our family wants for him – and we hope that he doesn’t disconnect completely. We were there at the beginning and would like to be a part of his life. I write this partially as an open letter, because I have no way of contacting him. I hope he is safe, happy, travelling or doing things he loves.
And I hope he has a happy birthday.
*I am a horrible person to keep in touch with. I realize this.