Fourth of July

I had the best Fourth ever. I was not looking forward to it. Two years ago, on July 4th,  my brother and I were on a whirlwind trip to Mississippi to see my mother who was in the hospital. Only to come home a week and half later with no mother at all. This memory being so fresh, I really didn't want to think about it. We were going to go and do the very thing I was supposed to have done instead of going on that trip. My niece was supposed to come for the first time since her Dad's funeral (locally) and my mom's too. I wasn't sure what to expect as she has had a real tough go. Her mother passed away in March 2007, then an aunt (my sister's closest friend) three months later, then her Dad in Feb. 2008, then of all things my Mom (who has always provided for her and was now her legal guardian) in July of 2008.  I wasn't sure what to expect. I have always wanted to be close to this young lady and my sister wouldn't really come around unless she had her act together, which was seldom. 
I was really nervous that she really didn't want to spend time with us, just that she knew she needed to. I was also nervous about what to do with an 18 year old young lady. I have boys and they are not there yet. My oldest will be 15 this week. It turns out, my youngest (who is 10) knew just what to do...

He sat and watched (and helped) her play a Sims game! Way to go little man. Even her boyfriend was playing a video game at the time. We even talked quite a bit while they played.
I also learned that of all the people she had hoped to spend time with I was the only one who really showed up (besides her aunt that she stayed with).  I was not going to let that go. You see she has a brother who didn't really know anything about his mom until his parents had to come clean when he was announced as a survivor.  I had to wait in the wings and watch him grow up from a distance because my sister was forced to give up her parental rights (which meant we had no rights either). She had not seen her brother in 14 years! I had the privilege of having lunch with him and going skating with him and diffusing a heated discussion between him and his dad. I had a little bit of pull with him. It turns out that he didn't come to see her because he was scared he would disappoint her. I told him he really didn't have a choice but to come- he many not be given another chance. I had to jump thru some hoops to get him...18 texts later...
They met for the first time, as far as they can remember. Every time I see this photo I get all weepy! To me, this is the most beautiful moment a person could hope for. I wish my sister could have seen it too.
Anyhow, in the middle of all those texts, I had a genius thought. What if I managed to get my brother's kid together with us too. Here we go... more hoops! My brother is a truck driver and was on the road. His ex-wife lives locally but was at the lake. It turned out to be my nephew's older brother's 17th birthday. Now I am in trouble. I have a narrow window to borrow the kid from his mom during his brother's day long family birthday celebrations.
But I did it!!! He is the one in the middle- can you see the family resemblance? These are my three stooges- only he is the serious stooge (Shep). More than that I managed to facilitate a miracle. We had all of my mother's grandchildren and only HER grandchildren all in one photo for the first time ever too!

What a bunch! Another boo-hoo picture for me.

 I didn't know what to expect out of that weekend, but I surely never would have expected this!
Maybe I should have...

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