I remember when I became an uncle for the very first time. It was unexpected, in a way. One of my brothers and his wife were definitely not planning to have children; my other brother was still single. Then a medical miracle of sorts occurred, and in the summer of 1992, my nephew arrived.
My other brother and I took a ride up to Baraboo to meet our nephew. In 1992, it had been maybe 10 years since I had spent any time at all in Madison--so when we took the westbound Beltline beyond West Towne, I'd never seen any of what was new out there. (It was a little like dropping off the edge of the world into an entirely new one.) Once past the shock of that, I was eager to meet the little fella, although honesty compels me to report he slept through most of our first meeting. I remember figuring out that he'd be in the high school class of 2010, and it seemed unimaginably far away.
Flash forward to 2000. My wife and I were in the process of relocating from Iowa City to Madison. I was working here Monday through Friday and going home on weekends. My brother was kind enough to let me live with them during the week. My nephew was seven by this time, and he was a holy terror--really bright but with overflowing energy and a strong will. The quintessential handful, in other words.
We acquired lots of nephews and even some nieces in the intervening years, but my brother's kid was the one who lived closest to us, so we were able to see concerts, football games, track meets, and lots of what the kid was involved in. If I had extra Badger football or hockey tickets, he'd come along. (I am told that he still has a puck we got during pregame warmups one night. I am guessing he would have been about 11 years old.) When we watched him graduate from high school, I thought about the arithmetic I'd done the week he was born.
To make a long story short (which is what gasbags say when it's already too late), my nephew--Alex--is 21 years old now. He's out on his own in the world, just out of MATC, working his first job, and all grown up, more or less. I had dinner with him and his girlfriend the other night, sat in the bar for a couple of hours, had a couple of beers. Even though it hasn't been all that long since we rode up to Baraboo to meet him for the first time.