Meeting my niece for the first time

I spent most of last week in Critical Mass’ Toronto office. I was there primarily to support our technical team, which hasn’t had the level of support from me that it’s been needing. So I went out to try and reestablish my presence other than “that guy in Calgary”.

The trip was successful, though I have yet to type up all my findings. That’s going to take a bit longer, as I’m sure to be put on the spot for a variety of must-do activities for this week. C’est la vie, though.

I didn’t return to Calgary with Paul on Thursday, though. I stuck around for the weekend, as I’d already planned to be in Oakville for the weekend. Back in January, my family expanded by one with the birth of my niece. Since then, Alex and I had tried to figure out when the best time was to go out and visit. As such planning tends to go, it was arduous, difficult, and ultimately it came down to picking a weekend and going. It would be barely over a week since returning from the UK and Ireland.

Turns out it was the best thing for me. Returning from the UK wasn’t easy for me. As I discovered last year, it’s very easy to get into the travel groove. The constant stimulation is amazing, almost addictive. Coming down is ugly, often fettered with depression. The last thing I wanted to be dealing with is wishing I were somewhere else, when I need to concentrate on the here-and-now. So changing quickly from Calgary to Toronto actually turned out to be a benefit. Get some travel in me, but set me up for being home.

Then there was seeing my neice for the first time. Cathy and Craig met me at the train station (literally next door to Mom’s condo) pushing around their daughter in a carriage to help her sleep. Small, adorable, and looking more like her father than her mother. It wasn’t until we got into the condo and she woke up that she first saw me.

And immediately smiled.

Now it could be argued that a child of her age (barely four months) does not have the ability to fully discern who she’s seeing or how specifically to react. I’m sure hundreds of reports have been written about the mental processes of a newborn, and that most of them strongly doubt the ability to recognize things definitively. But there’s also a case for the potential for genetic memory — that it’s possible to recognize features through genetic programming.

It’s a thought.

Meeting my niece gave me pause. Partly because I’ve never really been comfortable around babies, but because this is a new life in my family. Unlike all the other babies I’ve been around, she’s related to me. Not through marriage, but by blood. Genetically similar. It’s a different thing to see a cute baby, and then see a baby you’re related to. (And Mom thinks she looks like I did at her age. Cathy doubts it. I’m undecided.) But it’s a cool effect, too. You feel a certain amount of attachment to her.

I held her only once while there — she still depends greatly on Cathy for support. And I tried to comfort her when they drove us out to the airport — she doesn’t like her car seat very much — but I’m not the fatherly type just yet. I felt bad, though. All that pain, and no way for me to remove it.

Parenthood. The next great adventure. I wonder what it has in store for me, when it finally happens. I know I’ll never be ready for it, and it will change my life. I guess if nothing else, I worry mostly about failing at it. Only time will tell, though.