Sunday, November 02, 2008

Uncle Vayden

I've posted about my brother-in-law before. He is a mensch. A hospice medical director. A jazz enthusiast. A progressive liberal. A kind and gentle man. And he knows his scotch. These simple qualifiers alone make him "good people" in my book.

I love my brother-in-law (almost as much as I love my sister-in-law, feminist extraordinaire who inspires me with her intelligence, and keen insight and savvy. And, let me freely admit that I also believe that behind every good and sensitive man there is an equally good and sensitive woman).

But I'm not sure I love Vayden as much as Grayson does.

I'm constantly amazed at Grayson's memory. We were in Texas in August to see R.'s family and it was only minutes before Grayson had figured out who everyone was, and what they offered. Mamaw Amy had amazing steps which he could climb down. Aunt Lois would clap when he did something impressive (like climb down those steps) and marvel at how sweet he was. And Uncle Vayden, well, Uncle Vayden could talk like Donald Duck.

The day we left Texas in August, Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden stood on their porch in the early morning and signed the word "more" as taught to them by their crawling nephew. They wanted more time with us; almost as much as we wanted more time with them. We, the occupants of the jam-packed Mercury Sable pulled out of their driveway, and lamented that we only got to see our Texas kin once a year. And were sad that our time away, once again, felt so ephemeral.

The misses T. and B. know and love their aunt and uncle. They understand that they are loved by family far away. They know the faces and names and characteristics of their Texas kin. But, the prince of the home, Grayson, only got to know them for the second time in this past summer's visit, and it is hard to know whether he can comprehend the importance of family, as much as we'd like him to.

However, as we've lately learned, apparently this summer's visit made an impression.

Multiple times a day now Grayson makes a trip to the refrigerator. He's not searching for juice, or for yogurt, but for the magnets which are plastered on the outside of the bottom of the ecru-tinted Amana within easy toddler reach. The boy sorts through the magnets carefully rejecting the Mickey Mouse, the Winnie the Pooh, the Obama/Biden, the Monet reproduction of water lilies. Instead, he carefully pulls off the magnetic photo of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden and cradles it near his chest. He carries it throughout the house, showing it to those who ask (or those who don't, yesterday he tried to show it to the cat, who had no interest), and occasionally leaving it behind when some other passion beckons. I've come upon the photo in random places that Grayson haunts--by the backdoor as he gazes at his swingset, next to the bathtub where he had to leave it behind so it wouldn't get wet, next to his highchair when he was told he couldn't "play" and eat at the same time.

And if you ask him, "Who is in that picture?" He has no answer.

But if you ask him, "What does Uncle Vayden say?" He begins to quack and speak his own brand of Donald Duck jibberish. He remembers Uncle Vayden's play-talk.

I think that perhaps, Grayson believes Uncle Vayden is the authentic Donald Duck; a mystical force which surrounds him with sound but which he doesn't understand. Uncle Vayden's voice has simply become the mouthpiece for some sense of goodness in the world in a toddler's mind, and he cradles his picture as if it were a medieval icon.

Grayson will know the love of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden as he grows; as he understands time and distance and extended family. But for now, he carries his magnetic photo of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden near his heart and labels it with the voice of a cartoon character and recognizes that family come in all shapes and sounds and that they love him wherever they reside.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How sweet and touching, dear little Contemplative Chaplain! You are an amazing wordsmith. Again I find myself sitting here smiling and with tears dropping on my keyboard.
Your feminist sister-in-law