There are some family members that I am nothing like. My brother and I have often marveled at the fact that we ever became friends. Then again, to counteract that there are some family members who are so similar to you that you just have to laugh.
How did this happen? Were we born similarly? Was it, as the psychiatrists say, an equal measure of “nature and nurture”?
I have no idea what the case is but this phenomena strikes me today with one unlikely relative in particular.
“I felt a kick!” I said.
“Joey always kicks me when you talk Val.” said Andrea.
I wondered if she knew how much that meant to me and whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
I remember the day my nephew was born. He came into our lives, wide-eyed and interested, on a cold February day. We all marveled at this new person with only guesses as to what he would be like.
It didn’t take very long to determine that.
Joey’s personality leapt out of him at every juncture. He would face every new challenge with abandon and a reckless sort of eagerness.
I could not have felt more different than my fearless kin. How could we be related at all?
At least…I thought that until Joey started talking.
Joey and I share the happy faculty of an external monologue. Though I’m quite certain that the origin of this trait is his mother I still feel a haunting sameness with Joey every time he blurts out something only he himself should have heard.
“I’m going to hit you.”
“You’re just a little bit bald.”
I would laugh hysterically as Joey would say something I knew he would get in trouble for in only minutes.
It was like watching myself make the same mistakes I had my whole life.
You would never imagine that one so similar to yourself could teach you anything. You wouldn’t imagine that looking in the mirror would give you perspective.
But Joey has taught me an incredible lesson about life that I have failed to learn in 26 years.
He has taught me how to forgive.
When you are the person making all the mistakes… breaking priceless wedding gifts, sticking your foot in your mouth or whatever…you get really good at asking for forgiveness. But you never get good at giving it.
And a lot of times that means you don’t know how to forgive yourself.
I remember one day Joey had said something critical about my hair and I was recounting the funny story to Andrea. We laughed and thought that Joey, playing happily in his sandbox, would not even know what we were talking about. He looked up at me and said, “I said I was sorry.” as if I had forgotten to mention that part of the story.
He was only a year and half or so old.
I realized that I had to forgive completely. I had to let go of what had happened not just for Joey but for myself. When I said I forgave someone…I had to mean it.
He helped (and is helping) me let go of the silly things that I had not forgiven myself for.
And so the practiced apologizer must become the practiced forgiver and trouble’s companion must abandon their post and become not just an observer but a student.
In other news: The itchy belly starts.