For those of you who find this day a painful reminder of the mother you've lost, or never had, this blog is dedicated to you.
A mother is a female who gives birth to a living being. I am not a mother. But I am a Mama Lion. For lots of reasons I won't go into here, my nephew and I have a closer than usual relationship. Even in utero he always responded to my voice. When he was a day old I sat with him and pointed out all the shapes and colours on his receiving blanket. Everyone thought I was nuts for conversing with him as if he was an adult. Just because he couldn't answer didn't mean he didn't understand me. One of his first words was blue, correctly identified on a giant bear at Sears.
He's always been curious about the world and the way it worked. One time I took my nephew into the bird barn to watch ostriches in the incubator. Five years old and asking questions about gestation periods, incubator temperature, wiring, power failures, how long chicks can survive inside the incubator once they hatch, how they adjust to room temperature. His attention to detail was incredible.
He wrote stories about his stuffed dog Pup in which they cured cancer, saved little children, traveled the world and conquered hunger. He was going to grow up to be a paleontologist/SPCA agent/rock star.
Due to space issues, his playpen was in front of the piano. A little protege, he would pull himself up and instead of pounding on the keys, he would touch them in a way that made music. As he got older he switched to my guitar. At two years old, he was plucking the strings in a way that sent all the adults searching the house for the musician. No one ever believed it was the baby.
As he's grown, we've continued to spend time together. Our conversations are merely advanced versions of the ones we had when he was five. We go to auto races and film festivals together. We discuss the esoteric and the practical. He has a sharp mind, a dry wit and a well of compassion so deep it humbles me.
I'm so proud of this kid who has weathered trauma, heartache and life storms with his heart and soul intact. He's been no different than any other teenager at times but that's never altered who he is at his core.
My lion cub has grown out his mane. Moved to the edges of the pride before he strikes out on his own. He's independent now. Able to fend for himself. I still watch with one eye peeled for danger in case he needs my help. One signal from him and I'll be in there with teeth bared.
He is my boy but he is not my son. I love him. I adore him. I will never leave him. And I understand that can never be enough. I'm not his mother but I couldn't love him any more than if I was.