Round the Fire: Love Rescue Me

Jul 20, 2023 at 2:05 am
Round the Fire: Love Rescue Me

My nephew, Zachary, was born in 1993. He came into this world nine months after my father died suddenly from a massive heart attack. I was 23 and struggling to survive on my own in Louisville as a full-time student with full-time employment. 

My sister, Angie —Zachary’s mom — was also struggling to find her way and when she became pregnant, had to tell our grieving mother that she was with child, out of wedlock, on the week our father passed. 

It was a very dark and heavy time for all of us as I quit school mid-semester and moved home.  My sister moved home as well. 

I often see the three of us — Mother, Maiden, Crone — frozen in time, stunned by the abrupt halt to all our plans and certainties in life. Our foundation had been destroyed and we were left to find a reason in a unified loss.  

Angie’s pregnancy was the only symbol of hope and we all desperately placed our focus on this new life in the midst of our grief. Zachary was not planned but was meant to be in ways that I feel deep in my gut to this very day. 

I became my sister’s birth partner and went through the entire pregnancy by her side. We clung to this tiny light in the darkness of our reality. I stood by my sister as a witness to the birth of my one and only nephew. Zachary was born, wrinkled and screaming. The medical staff cleaned him, swaddled, and handed the tiny package to me. It was a joyous moment and I never wanted to let him go.  

Zachary was given his biological father’s name, even though this man had no part in his life outside of a few awkward phone calls on his birthdays and the one visit during his teen years which was the pinnacle exchange between them. Zachary was raised by his mother and grandmother, known as “Nan” to every child that was fortunate enough to be in her presence. He grew up in our childhood home in Radcliff with other young cousins, and ran in small groups of trusted friends who called themselves “four quarters of a dollar.” 

I moved back to Louisville to begin piecing my life back together but I never stopped making time for memories with Zachary. I was working, going to school full time to pay rent and build my career. I don’t remember having much down time but I would welcome weekend visits with Zachary at least once a month. He, also, looked forward to these visits, showing up with his Scooby-doo Magic Bus suitcase that held all the treasures he wished to share with his Auntie. Sometimes these visits were the only things keeping me going.  

Zachary was the only man in the family, raised in the shadow of a grandfather he would never know. On some level it seemed he understood the losses of the three women who were left to raise him.  When he lost one of the four quarters at the age of eighteen, he had his first taste of this same kind of loss. I watched my nephew harden and retreat inward just as his life was truly beginning.

It was not easy for Zachary to find himself after this incident. His self-actualization began when he decided to have his name officially changed. He shared that he did not know any way outside of “our” way. It was a change full of hope and claiming of the self that made all of us proud.

The next ten years of his life would be full of work, settling into a life on his own in Louisville, and finding his tribe. 

I felt distant from him during this time and the turmoil of this world kept him struggling with his purpose. As the world turned upside down with Covid, he came up for air and allowed me into his heart and head for a moment. He’d met a girl that was a great friend to him and slowly brought her into our conversations and check-ins.  

Emily was quiet — steady with delicate features and a soft heart. She too was raised in similar personal loss and tragedy that causes one to grow up fast. She was in a difficult situation as a caregiver to her niece and she struggled to move forward as a girlfriend with Zachary. My nephew had to make a tough choice — falling in love with a woman who had a child that was not theirs — so he took his time.

Zach called me about a month ago and happily shared that he was going to embrace our way of an unconventional life. He would be heading to the courthouse to marry in three weeks, and then have a small ceremony of those close to him to witness the love he had found.  

He married at the courthouse and then committed in front of their friends and family in the backyard of our new home the day after my own wedding anniversary. 

It was a privilege, a celebration, and a huge exhale for my sister and I as we watched this boy change into a man.  

Zachary and Emily committed to marriage and instant family with pure joy and honest union.  The ceremony was simple and private. The two souls joining that day stood on common ground and accepted a child into their union with a courage only true love can bring. I got to witness a full-circle moment with my sister as she stood by their side during the ceremony.  

“Our” way makes the best of the situation and continues to hold our heads high, sometimes with tears in our eyes, whether in grief or joy. We face life without turning away from hard truths and we have learned that we will always be given another chance to love. Our family name and spirit was rescued in this union.