Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Out of Order

Life is a series of cycles. You are born into a family and a world with everyone being older than you. When you’re young, that’s all you know. These people. People you didn’t ask for, people that you would probably never know except that you were randomly thrown in with them. People who bear you, love you, mentor you, mold you. They make you into the kind of person that you turn out to be.

Pretty soon, the cycles start. You go to school in the fall. You go on vacation in the summer. Maybe you join sports, dance ballet, play an instrument, become a Scout. Whether you do one or all of these, they all involve cycles (championships, recitals, camping trips, etc.). Then you grow up some more, and high school becomes another cycle. You hit puberty, start becoming the adult that you will one day grow into, make meaningful friendships, have your first relationships, start doing grown up type things like dances, parties, competitions, etc. High school is a never-ending series of cycles.

Then you graduate high school and go to college, trade school, or to work. You spend a few years trying to find yourself, being wild, then coupling up, settling down, and hopefully figure everything out to have a happy life.

At some point along this timeline, earlier for some than for others, you notice another cycle. The people that were around when you were born, well, they’re not going to be around forever. People die. It’s a fact of life that you have to accept whether you want to or not.

Wait Your Turn
Finally you realize that you’re powerless over this fact and start to come to terms with the fact that by the time it’s your time, your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, all of their friends, and some of your cousins and siblings will be gone. It’s the way it should be, the “circle of life” (with apologies to Elton John and Tim Rice) if you will.

But as these people begin to drop off, something else happens. They are replaced by other people. Younger people. Nieces, nephews, the children of friends, our own children. Younger cousins and friends. They’ll all be around until we’re gone, so there will be someone around to mourn for us.

Curve Ball
Every one in awhile, though, life throws you a curve ball that completely throws the cycle off track. You don’t expect someone born 17 years after you to be gone before you, especially when that person is only 21.

Early Monday morning I got a call that has devastated my life. My precious nephew Sean is dead at the age of only 21. He was a student at Ole Miss, and his girlfriend went to his apartment and found him lying on his bed unconscious. They were unable to revive him.

An autopsy was performed, but I don’t know the results yet. I guess I will find out in Memphis at the services.

Changing Roles
Relationships have cycles, similar to life itself. When Sean was a kid, I was basically his uncle, spending time playing with him, taking care of him, giving him advice about things, occasionally disciplining him. I loved him from the very first time I held him in my arms, a familial love, a protective love. I wanted to make sure that no one or nothing ever harmed my little Seaner, and that he would grow up to be a healthy, happy, prosperous individual.

Time marches on, though, and before you know it I’m looking up at this “kid” who’s got a good 2 inches on me, and he’s telling me that he’s starting Ole Miss, and we’re actually discussing politics, religion, relationships, feelings, adult stuff. I actually had a mature adult friendship with my 21-year old nephew. It was great.

Confidential to Sean
My dearest Sean, my heart is broken. I enjoyed being your uncle when you were a kid almost as much as I enjoyed being your friend as an adult. Thank you for visiting me in Boston over the summer. I will forever cherish our times together lounging and grilling by the backyard pool, eating in the North End, drinking at the Bull & Finch, channeling our inner children at Six Flags and especially going together to the Red Sox game. Just remembering the smile on your face the entire time we were in Fenway Park gives me a moment of joy even in this time of devastation.

You grew into a fine young man whom I not only loved dearly but also admired greatly. I will remember you always. Kiss Paw Paw and James Michael in heaven for me.

Love always, til again we meet,
Uncle Dennis

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