The Day I Became Aunt Tata
My best friend Jen and I have always been together since we were barely a year old. We went to the same elementary school, same middle school, even the same high school. The only time we were ever apart was when we went to college, her to Toledo and me to Ohio State. But even through that separation, we still remained the best of friends. When her high school sweetheart Shane proposed to her in her freshmen year of college, I was there for that as well. I got to take the engagement photo and see the love and care on his face and hers.
Shane had to leave for boot camp shortly after that proposal, but I was with her through that hard time. Whenever she got a letter from him, she would come over and read it with me, knowing that I was just as eager to hear of how he was doing. Shane came home after his boot camp and the joy on her face of being reunited with him was so evident to see, that it made me a tad jealous. I had always longed to have a relationship like theirs, yet unwilling to go through the separation like they did. They will always be the image of a fairy tale couple to me, simply because they were meant for each other.
I remember the day Jen told me she was pregnant. Her first pregnancy didn’t do so well, so I could see the hesitancy on her face in telling me, afraid to get my hopes up on welcoming a new member to the family. A few weeks passed and the doctor told her that she was safe, the baby was safe, and everything was going according to plan. When she relayed this news to me, I started crying. I was immediately seeing me playing with this small child and showing them the things their mother wouldn’t want them to see. I wanted to be the best Aunt I could possibly be and give this child all the love that I was capable of. The only problem with this was the distance. Jen and Shane lived in California, where he was stationed, and I was still stuck in Ohio. I vowed that I would make sure to at least video message the little one twice a week, just so they would know who I was when they came to visit their family in Ohio. I wanted to be as much as part of their life as their blood relatives and I was willing to show that to Jen.
I had to fly out to California in the summer of 2011 to help Jen move back to Ohio. She was going to stay in California while Shane was deployed to Iraq, but all of us begged her to come back this way so she would have her family around her. I think it was my voice of reason that won her over, saying that Shane wouldn’t want her to be alone with a new baby on the way. That she would need the help of her family to take care of the little one and that she’ll be grateful for that help. So here I am, in sunny California, helping her pack up her apartment, handing her tissue after tissue because she couldn’t stop the tears, the tears that were held in while she hugged her husband good-bye, unable to see him for the next 7 months. She wasn’t really showing then, but I knew that I needed to keep her as calm as I possibly could so she wouldn’t bring harm to herself or my future niece. It was a rough journey back from Cali to Ohio, but all of us made it in one piece.
The next several months into Jen’s pregnancy were the worst. There were times where I could feel my love for her being tested, but I still stood by her. She was missing her husband, worrying about him and his safety, and becoming even larger by the day. When I would look at her, I could see her love coming through for her baby and for her missing husband. I would occasionally write to Shane, letting him know how we were all doing. Even if I never got a response back, I knew he appreciated my updates. I was doing the best that I could to keep Jen sane while she had so many things to deal with and I learned later how thankful everyone was to me for being there.
|Audrey Christine and her Aunt Tata|
The day my niece made her appearance, I was missing. It wasn’t because I wanted to be, but I was in the ER with severe pain in my back and unable to be there. I knew I had upset Jen by not showing up during her birth, but I made it up to her as soon as I was able to. I drove to Jen’s parents’ house to see my new family member, even if I was still a little loopy from my pain medicine. The first thing I did was ask, “Where’s the baby?” Jen was shocked that I asked such a question, but she handed her over for me to hold. The second I laid eyes on Audrey, I fell in love. She was the most perfect and precious baby I had ever seen and I couldn’t get enough of her. Sitting on the couch, I started talking to Audrey, telling her I was sorry for not meeting her sooner, but that I was here now. Around me everyone was shocked at how I was handling a newborn baby, but they didn’t do anything to break the spell I was in. Audrey was precious to me and my love for her has grown with each passing day. Watching her grow, even through Facebook photos and FaceTime, has been a great joy to me and I can’t wait to see the kind of person she becomes in the future.