The Importance of Being an Eight year Old (Full Version)

For those of you that wanted it, here’s the entire thing as of today.  It will most likely be edited again and made into a new thing later if anyone wants to publish it anywhere else.

I didn’t know my brother was going to become a Dad until he told me when we were on our roof drinking pre mixed vodka  as we did on regular occasions.  It was our favourite adult sibling activity, the roof being easy to access with a reliable ladder and pre mixed vodka being our favourite and by far the cheapest thing to drink that we both could stomach.   To me, this was the little kid who was barely out of Batman Pyjamas who’d  played with toy action figures and gotten pissed off when I couldn’t be beaten at Mario Kart.  Fatherhood seemed a thousand miles away.  I asked him what he wanted to do, wether his partner planned to keep the baby, and what they’d discussed.  He said .

“I’m not ready, but I can get ready. “  And he did.  He went to every parenting class, read every book and listened to his partner deeply.   When she said she wanted me present at the birth at first I wasn’t quite sure. My brother reassured me that  it’d be fine. I spent the last few days before my nephew was born talking to my his partner and making sure she was ok.  On the day she was induced into labour it was  the middle of the week, I was at work and every time my phone rung I  had an anxious flash through my stomach just in case.  I was useless, and my boss wonderful enough to  let me have the day off, having had four children of her own.  I got there just in time to see Alexander Nicholas Ritchie being born into the world.   25th of October 2005 became a date that is etched into the diary of my heart forever.  

Almost instantly, however, we knew something wasn’t right with him.  He didn’t grow particularly much and had issues feeding.  When he was put onto formula we thought the problems would be solved,  and for the first few years  of his life everything seemed alright and he met all his usual milestones  until he did not recover from jaundice and began to have  problems with the yellowing of his eyes and lips. He was taken back to the Women’s and Children’s hospital at the age of four and began to undergo a battery of tests including him being sent to Melbourne for a stint, one of many, in the Royal Children’s Hospital.  At the age of four years and 3 months  My nephew was diagnosed with chronic pediatric  portal vein stenosis  – a narrowing of  the vein that delivers blood to the liver, and other forms of chronic liver disease.  He has been in and out of hospital and between the repairing and removal of portal vein shunts, and removal of parts of his liver that no longer work he’s  had almost 20 operations in just over four years.   He had a partial transplant in 2010 and it was looking great until October  2012 when the first signs of rejection had set in.  He’s now been slated for a complete transplant and it is just a waiting game mostly between Melbourne and Adelaide with him spending most of the year in the Royal Children’s Hospital.   During that time his parents relationship broke up, when it became clear his mother was not up to the task of taking care of such a sick kid.  It is a constant battle to remind Alex that it is not his fault things didn’t work out,  that is not because he is sick, that sometimes  people just cannot love, despite their best intentions.   So we became his family.  For the time he is in Melbourne  we are his next of kin. We love him and we take care of him as if he was our own child. His family are not just us, but the teams of doctors, social workers, nurses,  people who take care of him every single day.  open.  people just cannot love, despite their best intentions.  Despite th

 Despite the adversity, this kid plays with his imagination wide open.  He  asks me questions about everything, from veganism to particle physics,  poetry and the meaning of life and looked  at me when I answer them  with an expression of “ don’t fuck this up grown up, I’ll know if you’re lying to me”.     One day he asked me:

“where do you think we go when we die”?   It was something I’d been told he may ask, but  wasn’t prepared for.  So I said to him  :  “well, maybe we don’t go anywhere, maybe our body goes to sleep but the bits of us that makes us who we are stick around and live on in other ways”.

“So you mean, like a ghost or something,”?  He replied.    When I nodded he said, after thinking a minute. 

“Well, I want to live on as Batman, that guy was pretty cool.” 

What he doesn’t understand is that to me, he is more superhero than any comic book character you’re ever likely to find.  The closest we’ve ever come to losing him is just before Christmas when he contracted a severe bout of pneumonia and ended up needing to be intubated for a while.  I told him that he didn’t need to  fight if it was getting too much for him, because even the bravest superhero knows when it’s time to give up.   He made it through that time and is now steadily getting better but it’s still just a waiting game.  He is a  sponge for stories, for information about people, and the more outrageous the better.  When he was unable to go outside his favourite thing for us to do was sit and look out the window that looked directly out onto the street.  For almost a month that window was his only form of being able to see the sky , the sun, or the trees, although winter in Royal Park doesn’t offer much in foliage.   He’d point people out going past in the street and listen to me make up stories about them.  He’d offer small details, but was generally  content to let me tell the story. 

“What about that one”?  He pointed out a family of three people hurriedly getting on a tram.

“Shh.. “  I replied,  “you can’t tell anyone, but they came to Australia as part of the Witness Protection Program  to escape Mexican Drug Lords”  

“Annndd,, how about that one”?    He pointed out an old man with a walking stick walking in the direction of the Hospital. 

“ That one is visiting his new baby grandson down the street,  he’s never had a Grandkid before, and can’t wait to meet him”
“Does he have a wife”?  

“Nope, it’s just him, that’s why his little baby grandson is so important. “ 

“Annnd how about that one,  she’s kinda pretty”.   He pointed out a dark haired brown eyed girl on the street below carrying a bunch of flowers. 

“She’s on her way to a secret meeting with her boyfriend, she’s not meant to love him but she does, very much”

Alex looked confused, but pushing his tiny glasses back up his nose he said :

“I don’t understand… Isn’t everyone meant to love each other”?  Before I could give him an answer he  was asleep in my arms and I’d gently put him back to bed and go back to writing my book of stories about a time travelling boy named Tim, who meets a magical eight year old girl named Sarah and they go back and forward to different places amassing rag tag army of kids that no one loves but ultimately change the world.  Because that’s the thing,  Alex has irrevocably changed my world.  He’s opened me up to love,  play and affection.  Sometimes it just downright terrifies me that he seems to have this unshakeable faith in me that I am not entirely sure I deserve.   When we’re older we fret about rent, our jobs, school fees, or how we’re going to pay the next bill, but with Alex it’s just one big dose of right now. So that’s my commitment,  to be the person he already sees me as and never stop asking questions.



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