There was this little boy. He was almost one year old. He had tow colored hair that stood straight up off his head and bright blue eyes. The sun and the sky. His chubby hands wrapped around my index fingers as I guided him through a Florida condo, helping him learn to walk. It was all he wanted to do. As soon as I came near, his face broke into a smile and his hands reached out for mine so he could pull himself up and walk.
He did not much like to sleep. It was my job on many occasions to hold him and bounce him and walk him back and forth, a thousand times, until that head full of flyaway hair dropped against my chest in sleep. I sang him, "Can't Help Falling In Love." The UB40 version, because it was 1994.
I loved this boy.
I am a youngest child, but growing up, I was given a gift. When I was nine years old, my aunt and uncle had a baby boy. Four years later, they had another. To some, that means cousins. Cousins are fun and special. But these boys, they slept at my house every week. They snuggled against me, so small and trusting, at night in my room. "Whose room are you sleeping in?" "Mary's room."
I loved those boys.
I love them still. I am a youngest child who got to have little brothers. I learned everything about taking care of little boys by loving these two. I played Transformers. I played the part of Skeletor as he battled He-Man for control of Castle Grayskull. I built forts. I played cops and robbers, and pirates, and pretty much whatever they wanted. I let tiny fingers hold my hands. I gave hugs and kisses and carried them everywhere, waiting for people to mistake them for being my real brothers.
I watched them grow and make choices and turn into wonderful people. I believe God gave me three sons because I had already learned to love two boys so much, and so well. Why mess with the system? Give her what she knows. Let her do what she's good at. My three boys and I are all grateful that I was ready for this journey we are on. My three little boys, with bright eyes and tow colored hair, who love the beach and Pokemon and sleeping in my room.
I have finite wisdom about this world. I watched my grandmother, strong of heart and mind, lose her physical strength to cancer over the course of three years. I watched her suffer and break under the horrific debilitating side effects of medicine that was meant to make her better. When we lost her, at least I knew she wasn't hurting anymore. Then, I watched my grandfather break as he lived on in a world without his wife. A little over a year later, he finally gave in and went to be with his partner of 67 years. I knew he was much happier with her than without her.
But nothing prepared me for the hurt, the crushing blow, of losing my cousin. The suddenness, the shock. Knowing his smile and how he laughed at my jokes, even the bad ones, and agreed cheerfully when I told everyone I was his favorite. I want him to know how much he meant to me, how loving him shaped the person that I am, and how proud I am of who he had grown to be. I hate that he was hurting and I didn't know. I don't understand everything, but I think that sometimes, it's not really important if I understand. Me understanding changes nothing. So instead of trying to figure out why or reflect on what I could have done differently, I think I have to focus, to remember, that crazy blond hair and those bright blue eyes and that happy, happy face, and just go on loving him like I always did.
I love you, Colin.