“Auntie!” Joey screamed from the top floor as soon as I closed the front door of the house. Even on the shittiest of days, of which there were plenty, that boy could always brighten my day.
After shouting out for me, his footsteps could be heard and felt throughout the old home as he darted his way to the stairwell and shouted again, “Auntie!” with a big smile invading his face.
His blond hair, blue eyes and big nose reminded me so much of his snatch of a mother. Poor kid.
It was 1999 and the idea of entering a new century was all the rage. I was living with my brother and his then 8 year old son at the time since my brother and his ex-wife separated 4 years prior. My nephew meant the world to me. I lived and breathed Joey.
My brother worked the overnight shift so he had to have someone there to be there if Joey woke in the middle of the night, to wake with him in the morning, to get him ready for school, to get him out the door and to school. That person was me.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
For four years I was there for him. I was there the day Joey learned to ride a two wheeler bike by himself. I was there to wave goodbye on his first day in Kindergarten and I was there when he came home that day. I taught him how to tie his shoes and I was there reading stories every night and going over spelling words during breakfast. I was there to give him high fives when he came home with 100% spelling test results…
I loved it all so very much. The boy and his innocence rocked my world in such a great way. He showed me what it was to love wholly and completely and oh so unconditionally, and I adored and loved him so deeply for it and for just being him.
But I think I loved him a little too much.
I had absolutely no life outside of him. I would go to work and come right back home to be with him. My weekends were spent playing with him, riding bikes with him, taking him to the movie, going to his soccer games. And while I absolutely loved doing all of this and being with him and loving him, I was and always will be just his Auntie.
And I wanted and needed more.
I was 28 years old and I had few friends and absolutely no love life outside of Joey.
I was 28 years old and living with my brother and his son.
I was 28 years old and had never lived on my own.
I was 28 years old and my life revolved around my nephew.
I knew things had to change. And drastically. I needed to live life for me. I needed to step out of the sidelines and actually participate in life. My life. Because if I didn’t do it, nobody else would do it for me.
I stewed over all of this for months and months. I was sick over my realization. I didn’t want to make things harder on my brother and I had no desire to be yet another female figure to walk out on my nephew. I knew very well that it wouldn’t go down the way it did with his mom and sister and grandmother (all of whom lived with my brother and nephew before my brother and ex sister-in-law split); I wouldn’t just leave and wash my hands of the boy. But I also knew that at 8 years old, he wouldn’t be able to understand this.
When I finally told my brother of my decision, I broke down. My brother told me that it was all OK and that he knew I needed to leave and live my own life and that he was actually surprised it took as long as it did. I told him I wouldn’t move far and I would never leave Joey completely. He left it up to me to tell Joey.
The day I finally told Joey, just before starting to really look at apartments, was the hardest day of my life (at that point in my life). I was physically and mentally sickened by the thought of leaving this child, but I knew it was beyond time to do so. For all of us but especially for me.
I needed to live life for me.
|Joey & Lovie, April 2010|
Of course I’m grateful I made the change today. I met my now husband months after I moved and we now have our Lovie. And Joey and I have always remained super close, and always will. He's the reason I wanted a child of my own and for that, I'm oh so grateful.
I saved an email he sent me a year after I moved... January 24, 2001:
I wan't to go to your house again.I' miss you and I love you why do you have to work so much if you didn't.I could sleep over more.Well eney ways good by
Heh, that's my Joey. Always bringing a smile to my face- then and now. : )