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