My nephew Nick, who is visiting us this week, was sick last night. Sick, as in hurling up his guts every half hour or so. All night long. And I was reminded (it’s been years since I’ve done the all-night sickbed vigil—so quickly we forget!) how, in the middle of the night, the welfare of a loved one in pain and in need occludes everything: deadweight exhaustion, ice-cold bare feet, even the tremendous urgency of the need to pee after those cups of tea intended to address the aforementioned exhaustion.
I also was re-marveling at the old familiar awareness that I know what to do when someone is sick, even while worrying that I don’t. And that I have the authority to act on that knowing. I’m not Nick’s mom, but in situations like last night, general momness overrides the particulars of bloodline or familial relationship. [I don't mean to be sexist here or to diss dadness—am just drawing from my own experience.]
I remember discovering this “mauthority,” this power of momness, years ago when Reeve had friends over. On one occasion, one young friend (normally tough, confident, athletic, 9 or so at the time) spent the night. He and Reeve had watched (I’m embarrassed to say) an alien abduction movie earlier that night, then got scared and couldn’t sleep, so they brought sleeping bags in to our room so they could sleep on a pad next to our bed. A few hours later, I was awakened by Reeve’s friend crawling in next to me, staying close to the edge of the bed so as not to awaken me. I knew this big, strong 9-year-old would be mortified if I let on that I knew he was there, so I pretended to sleep while trying to somehow exude maternal comfort. He eventually returned to his sleeping bag, and the event went unspoken of thereafter. Momness works. Even while we’re sleeping, apparently (or apparently sleeping, anyway).
So now Nick, thank goodness, is much better. And I’m back to being an aunt (albeit an exhausted one), freshly girded with the knowledge that—should the need arise, for my own child or anyone else’s—I’ve got the power!
Photo: Tim and Laura’s introduction to Nick, circa May 1987, back before Laura had any knowledge of mauthority. (Laura: “But what is it, Tim?” Tim: “It’s a nephew.” Laura: “A nephew? . . . but, what do we do with it?”)