Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Day for the Queen of Bedrock

If my niece Jessica had simply been able to withstand the stress and strain of labor for a couple of or twelve hours longer, then she would have given birth to her first child on Zoe's great-aunt Jill's forty-fifth birthday. Having seen living color photographs of Zoe in all of her newbornedness that were taken at some point yesterday afternoon, I can confirm that juxtaposition shall have to serve as an acceptable alternative to overlay. Having always been somewhat of a fair-to-middling sibling and an underachieving uncle I am a bit uncomfortable once again being elevated to the dizzying heights of "Great Uncle" - although I felt less pressure to perform after Margaret reminded me it is a description of kindred and not an award.

So but for an unyielding adherence to the 24-hour cycle comprising a day (at least on this planet), Zoe and Jill would have shared a birthday. Better luck next time? Easy for me to say; right? I am not the one doing the pushing and the shoving, the screaming and the yelling. Nope, that hospital bill is not finding its way across my doorstep (too bad as I have a whole safe full of Go For Broke money I have been looking to get into circulation).

It is slightly mind-boggling to me that time moves with such relentless precision that Jill - the sibling closest to me in age - is celebrating her forty-fifth birthday today. It seems bizarre to me that silly events from our childhood that I remember as if they happened only a paragraph or two ago happened considerably longer ago than that. I mean, it seems as if it was only last week that while attempting to master the intricacy of that most complex of all driving moves - the left turn - I caused Mom's happening, super cool red Chevy Chevette to french kiss a railroad tie that marked the boundary line for the house on the corner of Wertsville and Amwell Roads while Jill watched in horror from the passenger's seat. But it could not have been. For at the time I pulled off that amazing achievement I had not obtained a driver's license although I must have already obtained my ability to argue persuasively. I vividly remember asking rhetorically, "What is the worst thing that could happen?" mere moments after talking Jill into letting me drive and mere moments before providing the answer to my own question. While it may seem like only yesterday, in actuality it happened almost thirty years' worth of yesterdays ago.

And I smile as well thinking of a memory of Jill manufacturing a laugh in a place where none should have logically been found. Last June Margaret's mom died. Suzy B. was a little, tiny woman who made an indelible impression on everyone whose path she crossed. The outpouring of love and affection for Margaret, for Joe, for Frank and for the entire family was astounding. There were more people in attendance at the wake than I have ever seen at any wake at any time.

Jill came to the wake and at one point she and I were standing together in the middle of room at the funeral home, simply marveling at the multitudes who poured in all evening. We stood side-by-side surveying the scene and talking about what laid ahead for all of us when, without changing the inflection of her voice she said to me, "This is always how I've envisioned your wake. Except with a whole lot less people and in a much smaller room." The deadpan delivery coupled with the content of the remark made me laugh.....out loud. Admittedly the reaction of those standing around me was not one of universal acceptance. I could not have cared less. Jill knew that at that moment in time, hip-deep in a fast-moving river of bad shit, what I needed more than anything else was a bit of humor.

Given the relative proximity of our ages (I will be forty-three on my next birthday) we spent a lot of our youth tripping over one another. I guess we must not have minded it too much as - in no small part due to the sales job she did about the place - I ended up following her to Boulder, Colorado for college.....where for the first two years I was there she and Joe (then her boyfriend/for the past two decades her husband) used to drive me to the liquor store and buy alcohol for me as I was too young to purchase it myself legally (and I never felt comfortable using my fake ID since I never was convinced that I looked like a 49 y/o Croatian national named Vlade).

I know what you are thinking. Breaking the law again? Did we not learn anything from our first joint, illegal activity? Of course we did. She never let me drive to Liquor Mart. Not once. Although come to think of it by that time that would have been a perfectly legal thing to do.

I used to joke when she was in high school that I hoped when she grew up, got married and had kids - it was the '80's; that was the natural order of things - that she had at least one daughter who was just like her. She and Joe are raising two terrific daughters, both of whom has been the recipient of the best of both parents. What I intended as a crack has indeed come true and while it ruined the punch line of my obnoxious little brother's taunt, it strikes me as a perfectly suitable way for things to have turned out.

Today marks the big 4-5. One day Wilma you will be as old as you are tall. You are not quite there yet but......some day not too very far away at all. Did you think I was not going to get even for that "not as many people and not as big a room" comment?

Happy Birthday Wilma!

-AK

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