My eldest nephew had a thing this summer and I didn’t want him to go to this thing alone, but he’s a grown up and I couldn’t force it and all I could do was strongly recommend that he take someone – anyone – with him. He opted not to, and while it made me fiercely cross, I kept my counsel to myself (and Mr. Spit. And now you.)
I talk about my family at work you know – I talk about being home on Sunday night to feed my family, I talk about my nieces and nephews, all of them really, quite often. I started to use the words family with my work because I wanted to carve out a space that was mine too. I wanted people to know that I am not always available (just mostly) and that I too – even without children have people who count on me, who in some way – even if it is just nutritional – need me.
Along with Taryn came Travis, and with Travis came David, who I have come to care for a great deal – not merely because Travis loves him so much, but because he is a delightful and funny young man who knits (and is not terribly tall) and then came the minion, and he’s funny and kind and smart and witty and caring.
The kids seem to think that I do so much for them, and maybe I do, but they accomplish a profound thing for me – they give me someone to love. They give me someone to demonstrably care for, someone to do little things to brighten their days. We often think of love as something we get, and yet in this last year, I have learned that the act of loving someone is a gift as well. The presence of people I love, people I can do things for, little things like buying pickles and goldfish crackers for snacks and bigger things like paying for laptops and driver’s ed, these too are gifts, these too are blessings.
I have, in me a tremendous need to love, a capacity for love. As much as I make jokes at the office about being mean, about preserving a reputation for being tough, those that know me in any more than a cursory sense know that I care, quite deeply for those around me. When I let you in, I let you in all the way.
If I hurt the most about not having children, I hurt about the lost chance to nurture. I hurt at the missed chance to mother, to caretake another being. I hurt about the loss of story and history – telling someone what I believe and why, turning that into a “this is what we believe”.
Around my dining room table in the last month, I have been showing them small things – where to put your cutlery when you are done, so the waiter at a good restaurant will know you are done. I have been teaching them what to do with their napkins, how to set a table. I show them how to knit, how to make biscuits.
These are small things, but perhaps small things that add up. They are the stories of who and what we are. They are the stories that outlive us.
God willing, I shall one day be Nana Spit to Travis’ children. I shall see Taryn at her wedding. I shall see the minion with a woman he loves. God willing I will have many years to come with these people. God willing the things that happen now will become stories, which will become jokes, which will become legends. God willing the discussions around the dining room table will become lore. God willing there will be enough time for that to happen.
But in those hours on Sunday, as I cook and laugh and teach, in those hours as I try to pour care and concern and vegetables in to the young people, I try to show them, in thought and word and deed – they are loved. They are cared for. They are not alone. They are part of something larger than themselves.
And in that, I get so much more back.
I am surprised at how very much – how deep and wide and strong the need to love and care for others runs through me.