Uncle: More Than A Niece

November 1, 2010

At the end of 2009 I became an uncle… kind of hard to believe but steadily getting easier. For the last year I’ve wrestled with this post and haven’t really felt like writing anything else until I figured it out. I was expecting an event of this magnitude to be an easy thing to write about but turns out that it isn’t. The problem isn’t a lack of excitement, it’s sorting out the excitement that is mine to share and doing so in a way that might be interesting to those outside of our family. We’ll see how I do.

When I arrived at Tate and Tammie’s place the day before Callie was born I got the feeling that I had more anxiety than they did. I got to feel Callie’s little kicks inside her Mom which made it pretty obvious what was going to happen in a few hours. Somehow Tate and Tammie went to bed but I stood in their kitchen and looked out at the massive amounts of snow on their deck. Looking at this snow and pondering what thoughts were running through their heads, I realized that never before had my brother and I been in more greatly differing places in our lives.

Tate is my only sibling and being four years older than I am he naturally dips his toe into some waters before I do. He turned 30 before me, purchased a house before me, got married before me and started working on having a family before me. Hell, I haven’t even started on those last three. Thankfully there isn’t a lot of competition between the two of us so you won’t find me complaining about this arrangement… maybe I wish that I turned 30 first but that’s it.

While my brother and I are quite similar, there is no doubt that we are in different places both geographically and chronologically. Growing up he was kind of a fortune teller. I could see the path he was taking and for so many years I instinctively wanted to follow that same path. It was his interest in having a car stereo that set me on a path to starting my own audio business when I was 16. It was his friend Josh’s acne that made me reluctant to treat my own. I even imagined that I’d join him in Minneapolis after I graduated college. This list can go on but you get the point, Tate was my role model and a fantastic one at that.

Things changed a bit when I moved to California. Without realizing it, I found a slightly different path and one that I’m pretty happy to be on. But I find it a little ironic that I never realized how much influence my brother has had on my life until I noticed how different our present places were. This realization was uncomfortable. I never would have thought that on the night before my brother would become a father and my parents would become grandparents that I’d be feeling the weight of 4 years and 2000 miles.

There’s a lot that I could say about the day Callie was born. I could talk about how amazed I was with Tate and Tammie’s calmness or how I got to see a new side of my parents. It’s very tempting to talk about how cute Callie was from day one and how nervous I was to hold her. While these are all amazing emotions, I’m going to resist because I can’t describe them in any meaningful way. Perhaps I can’t describe them because my memories of the day are overwhelmed by one simple observation.

After the delivery we visited Tate and Tammie in their hospital room. I tend to be sensitive towards various sounds and the beeping from Tammie’s heart rate monitor was one of them, it called to me. I noticed that every now and then it would jump up dramatically. The first time it was kind of puzzling. Then it happened again and again. After a few times I figured out what was going on and had a hard time holding my composure.

Every time Tammie touched or held Callie her pulse would shoot up at least 20 bpm.

You can see the connection that Tate and Tammie have with Callie by the way they look at her, smile at her and hold her. But Tammie’s heart rate shows a different kind of connection, one that exists outside of her conscious mind.

I spent some time this year thinking about what the future could hold for me as an uncle and Callie as my niece. I’ve found myself wondering if some of my interests will rub off on her. Will she be a geek or maybe play the guitar? Perhaps she’ll enjoy cooking or photography. Or maybe she’ll have a passion for the outdoors and scare the hell out of her parents just like I do mine. Maybe none of the above.

For me one of the joys of living is exploring all the different things we can do while we are alive. My parents did an amazing job of introducing me to wide variety of things and very rarely did they ever push them down my throat. Instead they presented me with opportunities and let me find my own direction and my own passions. That was quite the favor that they did for me.

But there seems to be something inside us all that wants to see our interests passed onto our children. Just take one look at the pressures that fathers can place on their kids to participate in a particular sport. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good way to ensure that they either won’t like it or will end up resenting you. So when I started hoping that some aspects of me would rub off on Callie I started feeling like a hypocrite.

After seeing her on my last trip I realized that my urge for her to have something in common with me is motivated by my desire to be connected with her. To have something that we can talk about, something we can share. So I’ve reframed things in my mind a bit. Instead of wanting a part of me to rub off on her, my goal is to share as much of me as I can and see where she takes herself.

The West Coast is a different kind of place than the Midwest with opportunities to explore different kinds of things. So it’s exciting to think about the things I can share with her out here during different parts of her life. Hopefully some of them will enrich her life and get her to ask some questions but I know that others will go right by her. But that’s okay, it will be her choice.


2 Responses to “Uncle: More Than A Niece”

  1. Russ Grimm Says:

    Great things are worth waiting for whether it is nine months or almost a year. With much love, thank you.

  2. Eva Says:

    I read the whole thing and I’m impressed with your deep insights Ryan. It means so much to you to have that little girl in your life and for some reason it made you feel a little bit scared or overwhelmed as it’s a big commitment to be an uncle. No worries though: you can handle it just great. This little girl is also a part of you, she carries some of your genes as well. And those are great ones! Maybe she can even sing and have a great voice like you. All you can do is to be yourself, perfectly as you are and share yourself, your love and your experiences with her. Just stay alive so she can get to know you:-)
    I also know how you feel about having an older brother. I adore my older sister and seeing her getting married was a big thing to me. I felt so emotional and so happy to see my beautiful sister with her loved one. I can’t even imagine how it would feel to be an auntie. I would have to cry a lot to let all those feelings out. Crying from happiness, experiencing pure feelings is the best though..

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