My brother was finally able to come home for the weekend. I am so glad he got here in time to say a few things to my dad, while my dad is still able to say a few things to him. I know it was hard on my brother. He basically had to come to terms with everything and say goodbye to my father in a little more than 48 hours. That’s a process that I’ve had over a year to come to grips with, and it’s still hard.
On this trip home, my brother also brought something else home with him, my nephew, Matthew. My 8 month old, giggling, teething, desperate-to-crawl, happy nephew. So the weekend was spent oscillating between extremes. Extreme joy. Extreme sorrow.
I could not have been happier when my sister-in-law told me she forgot to pack Matthew’s bathtub, and she would need to use mine for Matthew’s nightly bath. So, my sister-in-law and I settled in to give my nephew his first big boy bath, and it was EVERYTHING a first big boy bath should be. He learn how to splash, and he soaked both of us head to toe as he screamed in elated joy. Then, just as we were about ready to pull him out of the tub, he decided to poop and pee. I dropped his toys back in the water trying to find a towel to dry him off with before my sister-in-law dropped him back in the contaminated water. I had dropped in his toys though, so I spent the evening bleaching both the bathtub and his toys. Matthew found all this commotion laughable. It was perfect.
I couldn’t help but notice some of the contrasts between how I felt with Matthew and my father this weekend. I would change Matthew’s diaper and it would make me so deeply happy. I would change my dad’s, and though I am happy to do it for him, it also breaks my heart. I would feed Matthew. I would feed my dad. I would hug Matthew and tell him how much I love him. I would hug my dad and tell him how much I love him. There is obvious joy in starting a child off in the world surrounded by love and happiness. But, being with Matthew also reminded me that I should allow some joy in when doing these things with my father too. There is also joy in taking care of a man I love so deeply with dignity and respect in the final days or weeks of his life. Even though that joy can be so hard to let sink in during moments when I am so mad that I am loosing him so early. I guess my 8 month old nephew is already a genius. He’s already teaching me the most important lessons in life, and he’s giving me something to really, truly live for despite the heartbreak around me now. I love you Mattie Bug, and I love you Daddy.