My newphew, Ramsis, graduates from 8th grade today setting off a chain reaction of graduations, quincenearas, travels, adventures, jobs and - sooner than we think - marriages and babies. As of today, I'm practically a great-grandmother. (If you've ever heard me rant this to my children, it all begins with kindergarten.)
Ramsis is the oldest child of my husband's younger brother, the first grandchild, my very first nephew. He's always been the first and always will be(much to Lucy's chagrin). We are a close family as extended ones go. Ram wears his first-ness with incredible good grace, although to hear his twelve younger rivals (three sisters and nine cousins) tell it he's just this side of Darth Vadar. It comes with the territory and if there's any reward in taking on this great burden it is that for as much as they fuss and bother, all twelve of these little ones - and their attendant parents - adore Ram and admire how well he takes the beatings that come with being first.
Ramsis is smart - sometimes too much for his own good - and that smartness comes out in ways that both humor and haunt the adults in the family. That, too, has served to dilute the effect of later iterations of Rodriguezes, who learn from his mistakes when and how to keep one's little trap shut or one's little bottom in a chair. When they don't remember, Ram is often the first to correct, gently, firmly, just like a first should.
He is warm and kind and thoughtful, sometimes channeling one uncle with his understated, subtle presence and other times giving over to the other in his puppy-like enthusiasm and silliness. I'll let Joe and Alex duke it out over who's who.
You can, and always could, have a conversation with Ram. I love that about him, especially.
He's got a terrible temper. That's his mother's fault. And his father's. And mine. And assorted aunts, uncles, grandparents, a few pets. It's a family trait; let's leave it at that.
My nephew is a charmer and a genuinely good boy, and is growing into a fine young man. He sets a terrific example for all the boys in our family. If he's made his mistakes or taken long to learn some lessons he has always been the first to try harder to get it right. He never gives up. It has served as an even better path for the boys in the family to follow - you don't start out perfect, you'll never be perfect, but you keep trying to be better.
He serves as everyone's big brother and has grown into the big shoes he's had to fill with more honesty than I think any of us could have anticipated. Lucy is a second-tier parent in our household and Ram is in his. They share a bit in the heaviness of this responsibility, but also in the reward that comes from being respected. That respect, Ram, comes not from your place but from your honor in maintaining that place, through good and bad weather.
It hasn't always been easy. Our family like all others suffers its dysfunctions. But Ram is the first to know that whatever the worry, love is the number one disposition, the first priority of everyone in our family. He was the first of the babies to be loved, he's been loved the longest and won't be allowed to forget that he is loved, with warm, too-long hugs and smoochie, wet kisses before, during and well after the desperate attempt to be cool lost vigor.
I treasure my nephew. I love him more than he knows, wish the best for him, dream big dreams for him, have high hopes for him. I am proud of him and respect him and know that this day is just a beginning, a first. Because Ram is graduating today and he is the first. He always will be.