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Letter to My Newest Friends

February 15, 2014

February 14, 2014—Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dear Leopold and Lincoln!

            You won’t remember today like I will, and that’s ok.  It’s meant to be that way.  I’ll introduce myself again just the same—My name is James, but you can call me Uncle James if you like.  More importantly still, I hope you will always think of me as a friend.  We’ve so much in common, you and I.  If you’ll allow it, I will be excited to share in your joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures.  I also offer my love; it isn’t much, you might think, but it’s pretty special and I hope you’ll like it.

What a wonderful day it has been, getting to meet you both and welcome you in to our family and circle of friends!  My partner, Gregory, and I have just spent a delightful afternoon at the Meriter Hospital in Madison just to be with you, and your Mom.  She’s a lucky lady, your Mom, and has been greatly helped by your Grandmother Linda (to whom we took a bag of treats for her to share with your Mom—organic apples, oranges, carrots and celery; oh, and I snuck a few items of contraband in to the bag as well—homemade brownies, cookies and 7-layer bars!  Shhh.  Don’t tell Grandma and get me in to trouble!).  Your Grandfather Roy won’t make it to Wisconsin to meet you until later this evening, but that’s a surprise for your Mom and I’ve been sworn to secrecy about that visit.  The other guy there visiting with us today?  Well, that’s Jim.  He’s been pretty special to your Mom for a number of years and we’re glad to have become his friends too.  Let’s get back to the reason why I’m writing to you now, though.  Our first impressions of you?  The two of you are just adorable and so handsome with all the dark hair, beautiful little eyes which followed the sound of our voices, and tiny little fingers and toes, waving at us as we left.  We’re honored to be among those first few to have gotten to see you and hold you in our arms and close to our heart.

Your Mom has been a blessing in my life for near twenty-three years.  We met when we were eighteen years old, or so, and had just been admitted to study at Middlebury College, a wonderful school in Vermont.  I grew up in Maine, and your Mom in California.  We’ve shared so much in the years since we met in college as freshmen, me living in Hepburn Hall and your Mom in Stewart, next door.  We’ve laughed together, played together, and cried together—we’ve been the best of friends and I can’t imagine my world without your Mom in it.

We’ll talk later about all of this, I am sure.  I will be among those who “knew your Mom when…”  My name will come up in stories about shamelessly stealing (or rather “borrowing”) towels from semi-private bathrooms of the Chateau in Middlebury, bundling in a second floor dormitory room when the cold of winter had set in, and even skinny dipping in New York State—I have a small scar on my left arm to prove it!  But, you’ll also hear my name invoked when it comes to food and drink.  Oh, how many mugs of tea did your Mom and I share then as we took breaks from our studies and the stresses of being away from home?  And, when your Mom was writing her thesis about the infamous Baba Yaga of Russia, she didn’t always make it to the cafeteria on time, and I was forever smuggling food back to her room for her.  Your Great Grandfather, who I had met a few times by then, loved your Mom very much, and made me swear to do it, even if she protested!  I wasn’t one to argue with a persuasive fellow like your Great Grandfather.  He was a wonderful man.

Since then, your Mom and I have shared in many celebrations, and in sorrow.  We’ve rung in the New Year in Boston, attempted to get a progressive President elected by going to caucus in Iowa (and meeting the late Sen. Ted Kennedy).  I’ve hugged your Mom as she climbed out of the freezing Lake Monona after a polar plunge, and seen bald eagles fly over the Mississippi River with her by my side.  Your Mom was once married to a fellow we both knew from Middlebury.  I stood up with them at their wedding in California.  When that relationship didn’t work out as she would have hoped, I sat next to her at the courthouse in Madison.  (I was happy too that she found Jim to give her companionship when she needed it then.  He’s a good guy.)  When my own Mom died in 2011, perhaps the saddest moment of my life, your Mom was there for me with cards and letters filled with loving thoughts and touching embraces.

I know for a fact that you two are among the luckiest little boys in all the world.  Your Mom is a very giving person, and that is why we are still friends all these years later—I value and honor those who are generous at heart most of all.

When I was living and teaching in Virginia after I had finished my graduate schooling, I taught in a private school there.  I didn’t enjoy that job, or my living arrangements.  I was miserable.  Your Mom called me one evening around Thanksgiving and as I recounted my tale of woe, she offered me the spare bedroom in the apartment that she and her then-husband shared at the University of Wisconsin.  I accepted, and moved there to live with them on New Year’s Day, 2000, and my world was forever changed.  It was a very confusing time in my life.  I got to know myself better while I was living there, and found a liberating acceptance in your Mom.  I met Gregory that spring, fell in love, and stayed in Madison; none of that would have been possible without the caring and the home that your Mom offered to me.

You’re likely to understand soon that your presence here, your very existence now, comes straight from a loving and devoted place in your Mom’s heart.  With the help of her friend Gail, who I wish you could have met, and a team of talented scientists and researchers, your Mom was able to give Gregory and me two very special new friends two days ago.  Our gratitude can’t be expressed.

My Mom wrote to me a letter before she passed and in it she said, “When you feel sick at heart and weary of life, or when you stumble and fall and don’t know if you can get up again, think of me.  I will be watching and smiling and cheering you on.”  My Mom was amazing and we were the best of friends.  I miss her very much.  I know, though, that she is not nor will she be the only really great Mom.  You’re soon to find out that yours is also your best cheerleader, like mine was for me.  Both were and are strong, bright, resilient women who believe in the goodness of others.  Your Mom’s heart, like my Mom’s, has room for lots of love, and she’s willing to share.

May your days be long and filled with happiness, boys, and know from the start that there are many of us out there who will keep you in a special spot in our hearts and very souls.

Love always,

Uncle James

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Olinick, Judy permalink
    February 15, 2014 12:01 pm

    Wow James,
    What a message for the two little boys to treasure. I’m sure you and Gregory will be very engaged and involved uncles in their lives.
    Were they born yesterday? I’d love to hear more of the story that I’m just guessing at.
    I hope you and Gregory had a lovely Valentine’s Day.
    All the best
    Judy

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