"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Joke and a Smile

He burst onto the planet with a smile tattooed on his baby face like those who sport tattooed eyeliner. Frankly, that happy face was simply his permanent face status.  And today that beaming boy celebrates his 21st year of life. The doctors gave me an April 1st due date, but true to his nature, Nick fooled me and came ten days later, a cruel joke to play on a mom still waddling around like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
If there were an award for babies, Nick would have received “Most Cuddly.” He loved being rocked to sleep rather than fall asleep on his own. And, when he moved to a big bed, he would slip out of it sometime during the evening and sleep right by the inside of the door so that I couldn’t open it in the morning. He hated being by himself; he always wanted to be in the middle of the action. And, Nick could eavesdrop on an exchange from two miles away! Seemingly engrossed in homework or a book, he would pipe up from the other room asking for clarification on a conversation that didn’t involve him. That’s my Nosy Nick. Wonder where he inherited that trait?
Not content to play alone, Nick looked forward to little sister, Alix’s arrival, anticipating that immediately upon her return from the hospital, she would somehow mobilize herself into playmate action. Much to his dismay, she lay around, cooing and googling for weeks and months before his dream came true. Even then, as Alix grew older, she would refuse to play with him, and Nick would get angry. Most big brothers can’t ditch their younger siblings quickly enough. Not Nick!
Nick’s love for games and jokes began early, beginning with his surprise late arrival. We’ve endured homemade “knock knock jokes”, library joke books as well as the book presently gracing the bathroom shelf. It never fails that even now, when that young man comes home from college, he comes out of the lavatory with a joke on his lips. Groans and moans ensuing from those dumb jokes don’t stop that kid. As a young teen, Nick antagonized his baby sister Maddie incessantly while proclaiming that he “didn’t do anything.” He’d continue to provoke her by silently invading her space knowing she’d scream and we’d chastise her unaware of his sneakiness.
Nick struggled with being a good sport when playing games. After losing, he would throw board pieces and pout, but he caught on quickly that no one would play with him if he didn’t grasp that universal concept that everyone wins and loses sometimes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t competitive; he just doesn’t stomp his feet and pound his fist anymore! He thrives on activity whether cajoling Maddie to play basketball with him or begging the family to play Electronic Banking Monopoly. One summer, Nick organized a hiking expedition in the woods behind some property we own. We traipsed along trails brushing past tree branches overhanging the path and climbed huge limestone rocks, scraping our knees and arms as we navigated to the top. Hours later, we dragged ourselves home, wounded and tick infested, swearing we’d never listen to Nick’s bright ideas again!
For years, prior to April Fool’s Day, Nick would search for practical jokes to play on us. One year, Nick wrapped saran wrap over the opening of my shampoo and conditioner. Another time, Nick offering to prepare Alix’ breakfast should’ve clued her in that something was amiss; however, with her blond roots, she remained oblivious. When she tasted her cereal, discovering it was mixed with a blend of flour and water, she scrunched her face at Nick, “What is this?!” Yep, it’s best to be on your guard on the 1st of April when Nick is present.
Nick is all about details. It’s wise not to ask him how he enjoyed a particular movie because he will then describe it play-by-play. Asking him a simple question will lead to recounting additional information and stories he feels are necessary to convey a complete answer. If Alix is “just the facts, ma’am” and Maddie is “embellish and dramatize all the events,” Nick is “clarify and spell out every detail.” Extremely conscientious as a teen, Nick checked in frequently, cataloging specifics, carefully relaying material he felt we should be aware of. As a case in point, one evening after Tony and I had gone to bed, Nick felt it important upon his return from work to knock on our bedroom door to inform us that he had brought home Chick-Fil-A sandwich leftovers. Tony responded, “Gee, thanks Nick for letting us know!” While Nick’s major in the minutiae gives us a good laugh occasionally, I certainly can’t chortle too loudly. For, Nick and I are two peas in a pod in pontificating the particulars as well as prying information. We both desire to be in the know as well as setting the stage for the story that follows. Everyone else is screaming, “Get to the point!”
Responsible firstborn, Nick has always protected and kept an eye on his two sisters. He was the voice for Alix for many years, because she was too shy to speak up. And, with 10 years between he and Maddie, he took care of her like a parent, making sure she didn’t run into the middle of a street and keeping track of her when we were occupied. He assumed the task as naturally as a bee gravitates to honey. And, while he loves to joke and pester, Nick doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Easy going, kind, gentle, dependable…all describe this 6’2” young man. In keeping with what mom says of my younger brother, “He’s such a nice boy!”
And yet, for all these positive traits, Nick definitely knows how to argue a point to the death. Determined to have the last word in a conversation even if it’s muttering something under his breath as he stomps out of the room, Nick loves to be right. Learning that some topics and discussions don’t have to be a hill to die on is an ongoing process for Nick. Still, this stand firm mentality carried him through tough teen years and gave him the ability to make wise choices.
This resolve also caused him to make these declarations, “I will not have a girlfriend until college” and “I will not go to prom in high school.” Wrong on both counts! Nick became friends with a girl who liked hanging out with him. Everyone knew she liked him, but na├»ve Nick! Part way into their junior year, Nick told me he was going to ask her to be his girlfriend. When he asked her to the prom, Nick had to recant his previous pronouncements. Fast forward four and a half years and Nick is engaged to this same girl, the only woman he’s ever dated. Next year, that joke-telling, jovial, gentle son of mine will join his life to a lovely lady who has made him a better Nick.
He’s a prankster with a huge heart, and at twenty one, still sports a smile as big as the sea!


  1. Wow that was Great. Boy, he sure takes after his mother...on ALL counts, me thinks. What a blessing he is and has always been. Thank you for putting into words what we all feel about him.

    Love you!

  2. Proud? Who me? It is hard to believe that the boy who at around 5 helped me pound nails into the deck, sat on the dock with me and talked about everything and nothing at all, and who would go next door to our neighbor (who was in his sixties) to see if "Bob" could come out and play is TWENTY ONE. "Nicky Boy" is loved by Grandpa

  3. Ok, since I JUST did my make-up, reading this now was a bad idea! You did a fantastic job raising that sweet boy, Annette, and I love you and your entire family!!! Wonderful post, engaging writing! xoxo ee

  4. Thanks for your encouraging words about my writing and my boy! And, Sandee...you are part of my family, too!!