When I was a little girl, I thought my grandpa Jim was the best. And I didn't really get this at the time, but Jim was not my actual biological grandfather, so we never called him Grandpa. But I was little. And he was the one making silly faces at me across the dinner table and the one crouching down on the floor to feign dismay and pretend like it was entertaining when I sent the prince plummeting through the trapdoor on the Fisher Price Castle that I never stopped playing with. And when you're little, that's pretty much the definition of true love. As the story goes, without being told one way or the other, I always referred to Jim as "my Jim." Grandpa or not, I was too little to know that this wonderful man laying on the tile beside me was anyone other than mine. Because that's what he was - that was the part that mattered to my little self. Just like Nana was my Nana, Jim was my Jim. And that was that.
I didn't know this when I was a kid, but this is a lesson I would be glad I learned early. Because as you may have gathered, I come from a broken home. A phrase that doesn't bother me anymore because even if it is what psychology textbooks call us, it's not what we feel like to me. Generally speaking, brokenness implies a need for grace and I'm cool with that. But distinguishing my family as more broken than any other implies that we by definition inherently need fixing, and I just dare you to try and tell me that. Because I'll be more than happy to knock you into next week.
Which is a perfect segue to the topic at hand: today is Tim Farrell's birthday.
Now, first and foremost, Tim has been a faithful reader, commenter, and self-appointed editor of this blog since its humble origins in the Fall of 2007. And that, that's dedication, because I write about a lot of inconsequential stuff that probably doesn't all always interest him. Recently, Tim has been sending helpful suggestions to me via email after I post. Suggestions mostly involving how I could have slipped in a mention of him in posts about things that really had nothing to do with him. When I suggested he had such good ideas that maybe HE should write a blog, he said, "no, I'm just the idea man. I could even be your agent if you want." He's just such a giver, you know?
But in all seriousness - on this, his birthday - let's raise a glass [of coffee, come on, it's morning] to Tim. The guy who comments on my blog even when it has nothing to do with him and thinks I'm great even when I'm probably not sometimes. The guy who drove to Denver to stand in a moving truck bossing my friends around and in so doing made moving 1,000 times less stressful for me. The guy who would drop anything at any moment [and has] to sing karaoke with me. The guy who reminds me that the world isn't ending when someone has knocked out the front passenger side window of my car. The guy who tells the same 3-5 jokes no matter what country he's in, who he's talking to, and regardless of if it makes sense or not. The collector of cool cars and the maker of egg sandwiches and the kind of person who thinks to get me a new hair straightener when mine breaks and I am too poor and unemployed to replace it myself. To Tim, who has been faithfully laying on the proverbial tile beside me for so long I barely remember a time when he wasn't. Who is this, you might ask me? And I might answer, he's my Tim. And if you gave me any lip, I'd probably point at an imaginary stain on your shirt and pop you in the nose when you looked down. Because that'd show you.
When you're a kid, it doesn't matter who anyone is so much as how they are. No one sat me down and explained to me exactly how Jim was related to me, but I knew [in the way that little girls know] who he was. What I love most about that is that I don't think anyone meant to intentionally teach me to feel this way about family. I am thankful that I have the kind of family where this is just the reality. Where no matter how messy and convoluted it gets, family is just that and it doesn't so much matter where they came from or when or how, it matters that they're mine. What matters extends far beyond biology or genetics to presence and silly faces and Fisher Price castles.
When you're a grown up, luckily, not much changes in this way. I'm always going to care less about who anyone is and more about how they are. I might be older now, but I still know [in the way that even girls who aren't so little know] who Tim is. Because what matters is presence and hair straighteners and egg sandwiches. What matters is that he's mine.