Note: This Athens Daily News newspaper column first was published almost 30 years ago when I was a freelance weekly columnist for that publication. I am republishing this as I await the birth of my second grandson. 

Welcome to the Family

Donny Seagraves

Andrew Coty Guinn was born at 3 a.m. last Sunday morning in Cleveland, Tennessee. Weighing in at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, he was the first child for my sister, Leanne, and her husband, Jeff.

He was the first blood nephew (or niece) for me, although I have had much “aunting” experience over the years. When I married Phillip, he came complete with three nieces and two nephews and I became an instant aunt at age 19. It has been an honor to hear Susie, Sandy, Lorrie, Kevin and Travis call me Aunt Donny all these years. I look forward to hearing those same words spoken by Andrew someday.

I don’t know exactly what it takes to be a good aunt. I suppose it takes money for gifts on birthdays and christmas, and patience while the object of your “aunting” is young and adventurous on visits, and stories about when your sibling – his mother – was young and adventurous and shared your bedroom.

I can always entertain Andrew by telling him about the time his mother cried over Monopoly (I didn’t let her win)  or how she always complained when we served baked beans on one of her many spend-the-night visits after I married Phillip. She called it “bean on the brain.”

Or maybe I’ll tell Andrew about the day his mother was born. Her mother got up early that April morning and drove herself to the doctor and then on to the hospital. When I arrived at the usual time for breakfast that morning, the kitchen was quiet and, instead of my mother, I found a note with two blocks for me to choose from: Boy or girl?

I chose boy and then went confidently off to my ninth grade classes certain that I’d made the correct choice. After all, I reasoned, one girl was enough for any family and a boy would give my younger brother Mike, who was always in my hair, a playmate.

Leanne was born that afternoon and I was immediately sure I’d checked the wrong block. The giggly, blonde ballerina sashaying merrilyLeanne Bailey Benson through the house and my teenaged life while I tried to study and do all the things teenagers do was much more fun than another brother would have been. We had so much in common, my younger sister and I, despite our great age difference.

And Mike still got his playmate, thought not in the form he had envisioned. I remember Mike and I both spent a great deal of time wondering, as we stared down at the pink-skinned, blonde-haired baby girl, how her voice would sound. Somehow, in our childish minds, we thought hearing her voice would make her real, and officially one of us.

That was 20 long years ago. Now I’m a sister and an aunt. And just between you and me, I thought Andrew would be a girl. I guess I’m better at Monopoly than I am at guessing games.

As Andrew’s aunt, I feel I should welcome him to the family. We’re not Ozzie and Harriet or Donna Reed. But we’re not Dallas or Dynasty either. We fuss and fight, and we often don’t understand each other. But we endure – Andrew is proof of that – and, like so many families, we do the best we can in this changing, sometimes difficult, often frightening world.

Maybe Andrew will be like his great-grandfather Albert. He might have his love of farming and a dry sense of humor. Or maybe he will inherit some long lost genes from long forgotten relatives and be unlike any of us. Probably, he will turn out a lot like his mother: smart, musically talented, his hair the color of pure sunshine.

In the meantime, I will do my auntly duty and send him a box of gifts – nighties and blankets and miniature shirts and shorts. I will mark his birthday, July 27, on my calendar and anticipate what tiny clothes or infant toys I will buy for him at Christmas.

But before  Christmas, there will be trips every two weeks to see special doctors in Chattanooga. And in addition to the usual stress of new motherhood, Leanne will have to agonize and hope that her child will be okay. You see, Andrew was born with a temperature and later tests revealed a blood clot. His doctors think he we will be all right. We all hope so.

And I hope Leanne will be all right, too. And Jeff. Having just lived through the first seven years of twin parenthood, I am no stranger to the stress and the sleepless nights and the fear that even a baby born with no visible problems will get sick or hurt. It’s a fear that most parents share and one that links us together and connects us to every caring parent throughout history.

As Andrew’s new aunt, I will pray for the blood clot to disappear and for things to be ok for my young nephew. I have so many stories to tell him and so much “aunting” to do . . . and we all need to hear his voice.

Andrew Guinn

For more articles by Donny Bailey Seagraves, head over to the Writing page.

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