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Uncle Burton

Saturday, March 04, 2006
So a friend visited for the past two days, a friend who shall be given token anonymity. I haven't seen him in over a year... and neither have his parents or his kids. It was wonderful to have him around for a few brief days and we certainly had more than our fair share of fun but it caused me to do a lot of thinking about life, children, and families.

Let's start with a little bit of background on my relationship with this family - at least from my perspective. I've known this particular friend from since high school (that works out to over 10 years, now) and I've seen a lot of his life. I was the friend his parents (who are divorced) always seemed to think was a decent guy. I happened to be around the night he first kissed his now ex-wife. I was the best man in his wedding - although not entirely by design and I wasn't really aware of this until about a week or two before the event. I showed up at the hospital the night his first daughter was born. I helped them move - more than once. Shortly after the birth of their son I spent one late night counseling my friend after he found out his wife had had an affair. Later, when they got divorced (against every screaming fiber in my body) I advised him to give up on the custody battle when he saw how hopeless it was. In short, I've been around him, his kids, and his ex-wife a lot just by virtue of being around.

Anyway, last night I went over to my friend's dad's place to see the kids. His ex-wife and her new fiancee were there as well as another child she's had. I had a lovely time, since there existed no tension between anyone and me. I got to see the kids, I got fed (quite well!), I got greetings, hugs, stories, handshakes... in short, it was a great experience for me and - since everyone was civil and even friendly at times - it was a great experience for the kids. This morning, putting on the "Uncle Burton" hat, I was actually out of bed before 8:00 AM on a Saturday. I drove my friend to visit the kids for a couple hours at his dad's place and then went to go watch his daughter (who just turned seven a couple months ago) play in her basketball game. At this game there was a moment, fleeting and easy to miss, when my friend, his son, his ex-wife, and I were sitting on the bleachers in an elementary school and his daughter, while running from one end of the court to the other, looked over and saw that her dad was there. Seeing her face light up with love, validation, and the joy of his presence wrenched my heart. There's a bond there - though her father has been physically absent for quite a long time - that will always exist.

What about children? Viewed as a statistic, of course, they're lazy, smelly creatures who haven't a chance of survival on their own. Looking at an individual child, though, is a different story. I've traveled in and out of the lives of several children. Sometimes I'm influential, sometimes I've not. I've loved every one of them, though, because somehow every one I meet has their own simple hopes, dreams, pains, and joys. It makes me think about the possibility of ever having any of my own. Of course both my readers will immediately scream in protest, for I have none of the selfless qualities that it takes to be a parent. Perhaps no one does, until a child is born (or responsibility is assumed.)

Will I ever have or be responsible for children? Certainly not at the rate I'm going. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to love a child and be loved back... just for being there.


Blogger Laura said...

I think you'd be a really good dad Burton. Really.

5:12 PM, March 04, 2006  

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