The morning of his birthday my brother texted us pictures of my nephew's school celebration - he is in the middle of a circle of children, he is wearing a birthday crown, he is sitting with some kind of treat on a plate and looking up at the camera with so much excitement it simultaneously gives me hope and breaks my heart. The world is not good enough for that toothless smile.
When he was 11 days old, I flew from New York to Seattle to meet him. I'd planned on waiting a month or two so that my brother and his new family could find their routine before having Auntie barge in. But I called him a few days after the baby was born and we agreed - I needed to come meet my nephew. Now.
Even at 11 days old, he had this presence, this personality-in-the-making, that was so strong. And he still has that today. He is a little scientist; he observes, he gathers data, he calculates and computes, and then asks questions that make you blink and stutter.
He is not now, nor has he ever been, a cuddler. If he hangs on you for a moment too long, put the inside of your wrist to his forehead because the boy is coming down with something. He is very, very loving. He just doesn't have time to cuddle and snuggle and nest. He is planning and figuring and exploring, and such things won't wait.
I spend time with him and his brother every few months, I write letters to him every few weeks, I exchange goofy voicemails and have 5-second FaceTime chats with him whenever he stays still long enough for someone on either end to dial a phone.
There is more - so much more. This is just the beginning of the story. I have a special bond with each of my nephews, and they truly, truly have made me see the world in a different way. They give me hope, they cause me to feel fearful about the world, they convince me there is some kind of Grand Order, they teach me about loving. They break my heart. They heal my heart.