Today is a weird day for me (probably for everyone in my family) because it’s the day my nephew turns 16. 16! My nephew has always been one of the most important people in my life. He was born my senior year of high school – many of my high school and college friends have watched him grow up with me. A couple months after he was born, my sister and brother-in-law returned to work – and my parents had yet to retire, so the family asked me to step in and take care of Raj during my summer vacation between high school and college. He was between 2 months and 5 months old during that summer and we spent every weekday together from morning until evening. Just the two of us. Something happened in those 3 months that I don’t really understand, but most parents around me get pretty quickly. We bonded in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever bonded to anyone before and I probably won’t feel a similar bond until I have my own baby.
It was a hot summer and I was 17, going on 18. Taking care of Raj was the best birth control I could have ever experienced. I realized quickly how hard it was to take care of such a tiny person and how much they rely on you for everything. We watched TV all day (it was still my summer vacation after all), occasionally went out for walks, and ate lots of Otter Pops. Yes, I fed him lots and lots of Otter Pops – something my sister still gives me a hard time about today. If he hadn’t grown up to be as ridiculously intelligent as he is, the family probably would have been more upset about the popsicles. But I was 17, I didn’t know anything about anything. And it was a time when people weren’t quite as nutty about all-things-organic. What mattered most was that Raj and I had such a fun summer together and took many pictures and made many memories that I can still remember fondly. My guess is he doesn’t remember them so much.
What resulted after that summer was a relationship that even my sister, his mother, says is unlike her own with him. We’ve always been super close. When he started to grow out of the “hugging” phase with other relatives, he would always still hug me. We can hang out and be silly and tell jokes that the parents wouldn’t approve of. And when I got married, he
walked danced me down the aisle. He’s my nephew, but he’s also one of my best friends.
I can’t believe that little guy is 16 today. I’m so happy to have watched him grow up and become such a handsome, good guy. I love that he’s respectful of all people, not annoyed to hang out with the little kids around him, and always willing to entertain my “that’s what she said” jokes – even when he had no clue what the phrase meant. My life is so much better for knowing him and I can only hope that one day Ben & I have a kid that’s half as awesome as my nephew.
Happy Birthday, Raj!