Well, not really. But I have been struck over the last couple of years at how much my son, Z, is like two of my cousins, Ben and Kevin. (There surnames are not Roth so I’m pretty safe using their first names.) They are the sons of my only maternal aunt who I grew up calling DeeDee. Her name is nothing like DeeDee. She became DeeDee in a convoluted set of circumstances that involved both my mother’s and my own in ability to pronounce her name correctly. My mom distorted it, it sort of stuck, and then my toddler speak distorted it even more.
The older of my aunts boys are is about eight years younger than me. I was ring-bearer at her wedding since we had no boys in the family at that time. Yes, my grandfather was thrilled by this fact. His infamous, “Baby dolls again,” remark upon the birth of my cousin Lisa—granddaughter number four—is family legend. The farm set he had purchased for his grandson, complete with barn, plastic animals and real metal John Deer tractors waited for nearly 10 years under the bed in the spare room. Of course after Lisa it was 13 or 14 years before another girl would be born in our family. Again, I digress. Because of the age difference, I felt very much the grown up around the babies that were my cousins. I helped change diapers and even babysat them when I was a bit older and they were too. Funny how perceptions change. If you ask Ben and Kevin, they’ll tell you I was a mean babysitter. If you ask my uncle’s kids, Lisa and Jeff, I was fun. Hmmmm…does that say something about me, or them?
(Yes, by the way, I am ADD and I do tend to ping.)
Now that I have a young son of my own, I’m watching him grow and am amazed at how much he is like Ben and Kevin. The comparison to Kevin is easy. Kevin was the child who gave my aunt every gray hair she dyes. By the time he reached middle school he’d broken bones, poisoned himself twice, nearly hung himself (literally and accidentally) and risked getting squashed by actually playing in the road. (If you wanted to drive that street, be prepared to pay the toll.) Kevin stories filled the conversation in family gatherings and are retold again and again despite the fact he’s now reached middle age, has a child of his own and wishes we’d all stop. Not likely buddy.
From early on I made comparisons between Z and Kevin, most recently when Z went running naked through the yard after swimming in his pool. Yes, that’s another Kevin story. But yesterday, for the first time, I noticed similarities to Ben. Ben was the quiet, thoughtful, gentle boy who knew exactly what he wanted and who he wanted to be. Then he went out and did it. I adore Ben. He’s always been very special to me because he was a bit like me in that we could both argue our way through life and would stubbornly defend our beliefs, and they were usually on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Our cocker spaniel has been very ill the last two days. So ill we weren’t sure she was going to make it. She’s been sleeping quietly in a crate we moved into the front room so she could be with us. Now, Z and Shiloh are not the best of friends. They’ve knocked heads since he first started lying on the floor for tummy time. As a toddler, it can seem like all out war. He harasses her, she harasses him. He tugs and pushes her; she knocks him down and steals his snack. Yet I only began to see that there is a bond between them this weekend. With her crate uncovered in my bedroom so I could watch her at night, I noticed her lumber to her feet and pace whenever he made a sound during the night. He keeps track of her, he’s wanted to know why she was in her house instead of chasing him around stealing his graham crackers or Cheerios. We explained she was sick, she had an owie in her tummy. After thinking about this for a few moments, Z announced, “I sick, too,” and has maintained his infirmity for the past two days.
Here in comes the comparison to Ben. My aunt took us three older girls when my mom had to have surgery when I was about 8 or 9. Within days we all three broke out in chickenpox. Here is a young, new mother with a toddler who suddenly has three older girls who were supposed to be “helpful” to her during their stay and now she’s taking care of them too. And she did. We took oatmeal baths several times a day, she coated our ichies with Calamine, we read books, curled up on the couch under blanket and had ice cream. Little Ben saw all this and began to demand that he get “spots” too. Two weeks later we were back home and the chickenpox gone. We get a phone call and my aunt puts Ben on the phone. He proclaims we need to take our spots back, he doesn’t want them any more.