Everyone knows I have the three most awesome nieces on the planet who are loved (and spoiled) equally by their Uncle. But I have an extra bond with one of them because she’s the only one I got to hold, walk with and be a proper bad influence on. Her name is Alexandra, but you can call her Ali or Al. I just call her Bug. She turned 11 today.
When she was about six months old, I would stand on the bed in my folks’ room, hold her tiny little body up to the ceiling and drop her onto a huge stack of pillows I’d laid out around my feet. Onlookers would have called CPS if it weren’t for the loud giggle she let out each time. I’d like to think it helped contribute to her insane athletic prowess, or at least her daredevil streak.
She started walking at eight months and took her training wheels off at two and a half. Waterskiing by the age of four and wakeboarding at six, I don’t think she’s ever met a physical challenge she couldn’t master within a week. She proved that point when she was five years old after scoring five consecutive goals in her first soccer game without even having a single practice. Pretty sure that is more goals than I scored in all 10 seasons that I played. But as storied as her athletic career has already become, there’s something she holds inside that shines even brighter – her heart.
She wasn’t even a year and a half old when my accident happened, but became one of my best nurses almost instantly. I’m not kidding. I developed pressure sore on my backside when she was five, and she looked at my mom like helloooo? and said, “We have to take the pockets off Uncle’s jeans.” The thought hadn’t crossed our minds, but that’s just Al. She just has this innate ability to empathize with any person or situation. You can see it anytime she holds a newborn or plays with an animal – just a gentle confidence and ease that far surpasses her age.
I got to spend most of the day with her yesterday. We shopped for shoes and Halloween costumes, ate at Panda Express followed by Baskin-Robbins. It’s hard to fathom how quickly the last 11 years have gone by. She’s not that little baby I used to throw in the air. Who would’ve thought she’d grow up to be my favorite athlete and one of the coolest kids I know? No matter how old she gets, she will always be my little helper and one of my very best friends.