Being an aunt when you're living a No Kidding life can be beautiful and special and bittersweet. Being an aunt of a child with serious health issues makes it even more complicated. I watch my sister deal with the health issues every morning and evening when important and time-consuming routines that are a chore to her nine-year-old are necessary, and I watch her deal with the issues at every meal, hearing every cough, and probably every time she looks at her daughter, and feel nothing but respect for her daily battles. I take on these tasks gladly when I become the care-giver, as I was this weekend when we drove seven or so hours north to relieve my sister and brother-in-law so they could attend a conference (related to my niece's condition).
And in between the care-giving, we made a cushion together, had dinner at our niece's favourite restaurant complete with neon mocktails, played badminton on the lawn, chased a young heifer that had got loose from next door, watched her play basketball on Friday night and go on her riding lesson the next morning, saw her practice her gymnastics routine, and all the other things you do with an active nine-year-old. Then we curled up with the cat, and watched Moana together.
When we left this morning - too soon, but necessary, because we have elderly relatives at this end of the island who need care-giving too - it was with sadness that we won't see her again for a while. But there are also complicated and confused emotions, knowing that I wouldn't wish my sister's concerns on anyone, and feeling relief that I am not the one primarily bearing that burden, but also knowing that there is great joy in her role as well as great fear and sadness, and that I would have willingly born these myself, if I had had the chance.