My first child didn’t just change me into a mother, she also changed my brother into an uncle.
When he flies into town to see us it is always a whirlwind experience. His job is all consuming and there are emergency calls through the weekend. He doesn’t have time for his art at the moment and he says he buys books compulsively but they’re stacked in a tower unread beside his bed. We have conspiratorial conversations with lots of laughter and constant interruptions from his phone. He throws himself into it with the children. You have to pace yourself, I tell him, and pour him a glass of wine. He doesn’t want children of his own, he says. He just loves our sister’s and my children.
This time he is in town for a family event but he spends a day of the weekend taking my kids out on separate outings for their birthdays. They are thrilled. He devises lovely plans for them. He takes Lauca indoor rock climbing followed by some book shopping, and then he takes Cormac for fish and chips via a toy shop, and finally, back home to build a car track with cement in the garden. The car track idea is one from his own childhood, apparently, but I don’t remember our father doing this with him.
Later that afternoon I can hear my brother building Lego constructions at the kitchen table with my kids and the sound of it brings tears to my eyes. Something about how he and I played Lego together as children, and knowing he doesn’t live in this city anymore and I miss him, and that the children now adore him and miss him too.