In a school writing assignment you say, “I was named Orion because it is in the sky. I am called Ryan, but also “o” and Monkey. If you are looking for me you will find me fishing or swimming. They are two of my favorite things to do. I could be eating meat or plants fresh from my garden. There is a good chance that I am in the woods because I am a nature boy. Twenty years from now I will be a marine biologist, a zoologist and a fisherman. I hope to work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and be a scientist. But for now you will see a boy that flaps his wings and plays mostly with girls. That’s me.
If I were in charge of the world
I’d cancel rules and adults and also all cleaning.
There would be pets for a dollar and no two hundred dollar ones.
We wouldn’t have chain saws or poachers
We wouldn’t have guns.
If I were in charge of the world,
I would be a dragon
My homes would be candy.
A Person who sometimes forgot to go to the bathroom
And sometimes forgets to clean up
Would still be allowed to be in charge of the world.
I sometimes call your uncle AJ your name. I catch myself and apologize. One time AJ said you really love Ryan, don’t you? I told him, “And I really love you, too. Thats why I call both of you the other’s name.” You are in a tiny little file folder in my brain with those I am very fond of, those I adore, those I have cared for, know well, enjoy, those boys, I guess, little boys who charmed me. AJ is grown up and I still feel the boy I knew years ago even as he stands there in front of me as a man. He liked animals too, you know. He used to play with his animal figures in the dirt and the rocks and imagine things happening. His play was private, purposeful and absolutely necessary. Yours is like that, too.
You are pulled to squat down and place families of animals, their eco mates and predators on the ground together. Then facilitate their interactions.
I wonder if you might grow up to be like your uncle? He spotted birds from the car as we whizzed by on the highway way out on the savannah in the trees. He called out when he saw rheas, hawks, falcons, toucans and parrots. And always saw the mammals first on walks. You do that, too. You have binocular eyes like he does. He’s a surfer, an adventurer and traveler. He likes to learn the languages of the countries he visits. He makes friends where ever he goes. I watched him meet people and ask them about the food, their favorite place to get a salad, to walk and get dinner, to see the history of the people in Brazil. He could google, but he told me that he prefers to chat with people.
I want to tell you more and more about Uncle AJ because I just had such a great visit with him. I realized now that my littlest boy is grown that he is a wonderful man that I would like even if he wasn’t my son. He is funny, generous, kind, optimistic, friendly, loving, thoughtful and brilliant. All those things. And this was the first time I felt his protectiveness, care and love for me from his grown up self so clearly. Very sweet to have him walk in back of me, hold my elbow at steps and door jambs, tell me to look out for uneven walkways and carry my bags. That’s what we used to call being a gentleman. Gentle. It was nice to feel him taking care of me. I was deeply touched. I didn’t want to say good bye.
Maybe someday you will go places to see animals, walk incredible trails, swim across pristine lakes in far away places and climb amazing mountains. Someday you will speak in other languages with people you never met. You will find yourself too, as you explore. Learn things about humanity, diversity, their struggles and the amazing resilience of the human spirit. And learn about yourself too. I can see it. If you hold my hand, tell me about the bumps on the path and walk next to me, I will join you. You and Uncle AJ are cut from the same cloth, woven together in my heart and mind. I adore both of you. See you soon…unless there is a storm in Houston, that is. And Uncle AJ, maybe he will come visit Santa Cruz again soon. Until then, I am happy to have seen him in a place he has made his new home, his Brasil. Gma
I watch a little girl crying as her mother peddles down the street on her rickety bike, loaded with parcels, hanging off each side like a bee heading back to the hive thighs packed with pollen. She has a baby in a plastic chair attached to the handlebars secured with a strip of cotton fabric. And she is noticeably pregnant. Her shiny black hair stirs as they bump over the uneven ground. The little girl tosses her head back and wails to the sky. Only once did I see the mother scold the child. She had seen me watching her, I smiled and blew them a kiss…maybe embarrassed her and she flung her arm back missing the girls face by a hair. The child growled. And I thought of your sister, the way she growls sometimes, wails, calls into the sky for help.
I wonder how shes managing without her step-mom to ground her, to pull her in close and assure her that everything will be okay. I imagine your daddy unable to do that. I imagine your daddy spinning in circles, looking for a center place to focus. I imagine you dropping to the floor and playing, pretending you are and animal in his nest, wondering if another hospital stay could mean that step-mom is dying, wondering if I will ever come home, from my vacation, singing a private song to soothe yourself, then lifting your arms and flying away out into the yard to perch in your roost in the loquat tree between Grandpas office and your house, scooting to the top and watching down the road for anyone to arrive. Anyone at all.
I didn’t come back when mommy got sick. I stayed with AJ in Brasil. Stayed with Grandpa. We agreed it was best to stay here, to walk the jungles, listen to the falls, look for birds and mammals and collect stories to tell you and Liza when we get back. Teach you new words, show you maps and offer you a fresh perspective, a peek into what happens in the big world while yours there from the top of that tree must feel pretty messed up. You must feel lonely. I hope not too worried.
I am sorry if I made the wrong decision. Maybe I should be home, taking care of you all. And I am not.
I will be home on Tuesday. Maybe you can miss school on Wednesday, stay home with me and we can listen to each others stories. You talk and I talk and both of us will open our hearts to your step-mom fighting her illness. We will find kindness for daddy as your daddy is confused, worried and lonely, too.
I wish for that little girl on the back of the bike, the baby and that peddling mommy that they have a place to fall softly and rest after their day. Maybe they have a grandma at home and she is that place. I love you, Gma
Hey buddy. What a time for you. I am on a vacation with Grandpa. We are in Brazil for another week. I hear that your step-mom is sick. She had something called a stroke. It makes it hard for her to walk and move one of her arms. Her face may look a little different, too. I am so far away that I haven’t seen mommy, but you have, She is in a hospital that will help her get better. I wonder how you are. How your sister and brother are managing. I think your daddy is probably very upset and busy helping mommy feel safe and cared for. I hope you get some of that too.
If you get worried please ask daddy or my sister, Auntie Robin to help you understand. Uncle Neal, Grammy and Robin are good at telling you what you wonder about. I think you may be spending the night at different places while daddy sorts himself out, soon you will be back to your routine. That will feel good. Maybe you could draw your mommy some pictures or Skype with her. That would make her happy. I bet she misses you. When I caught a piranha today in the river, I wished you were here. I wanted to show you the toucans, the river otters and the giant anteater. I wanted to hold you and listen to your questions. I wanted to hold you while you cried. I love you buddy. Your step-mom has a good doctor to heal her. gma