Years ago, late one night and most likely aided by a glass or two of wine, Nathan and I got into an odd and lilting conversation about baby names. We both wanted "William." I argued that as the firstborn child, I should get dibs on the name. Nathan, ever the logical one, argued that which ever of us had a son first should get the name.
Eventually, in our intoxicated and intoxicating sentimentality, we decided that maybe we could both lay claim to the name, and that it wouldn't be the end of the world for two cousins to answer to Bill.
I remember the conversation feeling very abstract, in that particular way that conversations about not entirely impossible but definitely far-off and hard-to-imagine things feel.
Nathan called me in early September to tell me that Shanna is pregnant, and that come next April they will be parents.
I was surprised at how sad I felt at first, upon getting this phone call. I got off the phone that night and sobbed myself to sleep, which seemed such a shameful and horrible way to greet such lovely news that I've tried not to think about it too much.
Cousin Eric sent me a couple old pictures last week, from a sailing trip on his parents' boat that happened a quarter of a century ago. I wasn't expecting these pictures, and had to catch my breath after opening his email. And it struck me then, in that moment of not being able to breathe, where this initial sadness had come from.
I am so very happy for Nathan, adored baby-brother-mine, and his lovely Shanna and their impending parenthood, and I am so very happy at the thought of being aunt to their child. But also there is the realization that our father will never know this child, will never be known by this child, and will never watch his own child become a father -- something I know he would have watched with boundless joy.
And so I find myself crying for them: for these two wonderful and beautiful men and the loss of an experience that they should have shared, had things gone a little differently with the world.
I imagine, if Nathan and Shanna should have a son, that he will be impish and curly-haired and glowing, as his father and grandfather have been before him, and that perhaps he will carry with him his grandpa's exuberant grin if not his grandpa's name.