There are a lot of children in my extended family. I have nine brothers and sisters, my husband has four, and they all have grown children, most of whom have children of their own. The newest generation, which includes my grandchildren and the children of my nieces and nephews (my "grand" nieces and nephews) vary in ages from the mid-twenties to not yet one year old. No doubt some of the older members of this pack will be having children of their own in the not too distant future.
When you have that many young relatives it is inevitable that you become closer to some than to others based on how often you interact with each. All of my grandchildren are very near and dear to me, of course, and hold a special place in my heart, but when it comes to my grandnieces and grandnephews my "closeness" to them varies along a wide spectrum of "closeness". Some of these kids I see on a regular basis because they live near me and I socialize with their parents quite often. Others I see only at holidays and special occasions. Among this group, Kiley (my grandniece) is by far the closest to me. How can she not be when she is with me ten hours a day. I love her more than life.
That said, I love all the little urchins in my family and each and every one is unique in his, or her, own way. Among this group there are subgroups, and one of these subgroups consists of the sons of one of my nephews. They are the grandchildren of my husband's sister. There are three of them, ages three, two, and nine months old (Whoa! Slow down!). The oldest is Robbie, followed by Anthony and Michael. Robbie just turned three in January. He is extremely active and abnormally strong and coordinated. He is an accomplished "climber" and you have to watch him every second or you will be picking him off the roof. Michael is nine months old, happy and pleasant and though he has yet to accomplish much in just nine months we are expecting great things from him. Then there is Anthony.
Anthony's birth was traumatic. He was born with a broken hip and other conditions that were alarming. He lay very still and wasn't wriggling around like newborns usually do. He had difficulty breathing and swallowing. For the next couple of weeks we were all worried sick. He couldn't move, and each couple of days brought new revelations of the seriousness of what he was dealing with. We were beginning to fear a lifetime of paralysis and dependence for him. Eventually it was determined that he had a condition known as CMS, which stands for Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome, a neuromuscular disorder. I won't try to explain something that I don't understand. There are different forms of CMS and if I just say that it is caused by "genetic defects that affect proteins of the neuromuscular junction" it will give you an idea of the complexity of the disorder. Having a diagnosis, even such a serious one, was a relief, however,especially when we learned that there are treatments available.
After much experimentation with various drugs, all accompanied by worry, anguish, and hope, a drug was found that worked extremely well. The effects of the treatment were amazing. A baby that was nearly paralyzed became active and increasingly stronger. It was a miracle. Even the doctors were amazed at the result and a medical team began a study based solely on his individual progress to learn more about the disease and why he was responding so well to treatment. The doctors were confident that Anthony would be able to live a normal and independent life. He might never be an athlete, but his future would be the normal one of school, job, marriage, and family. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
That is not to say that there were no problems that Anthony had to face and hurdles he had to overcome. There were many. Among these was the fact that the condition had resulted in his legs being crooked. He had to wear leg braces as a baby and his parents had to routinely perform stretching exercises on him, twisting and manipulating his legs to straighten them over time. But that worked well and before we knew it this little guy who was born nearly paralyzed was crawling and in due time was walking. After that you couldn't stop him.
As he grew he did well in the give and take with his older, stronger, faster, "climbing" brother. Anthony couldn't match Robbie's physical abilities, but in the inevitable competition between brothers he held his own. What he lacked in strength he made up for in determination. The trials he had faced from birth had taught him courage and perseverance.
Since they live in a place called Quarryville, the two brothers soon came to be known in our family as "the Quarryville boys". And talk about hellions. Whenever the Quarryville boys are around it is pandemonium. There is nothing more dynamic, or should I say destructive, than two boys on the loose, each determined to have fun. Though they sometimes clashed over toys or other childish priorities they got along well together and are a joy to the whole family. When Michael was born nine months ago both of his big brothers took to him right away and the three brothers, sometimes referred to as "Little, Middle, and Big", became a triumvirate with Michael taking his rightful place as a Quarryville boy.
Anthony turned two years old at the beginning of January, and until Robbie turned three at the end of January they were both two-year-olds for that short time. Their father jokingly referred to Anthony as his "younger two- year-old". Anthony's second birthday was a great milestone considering from where he had started, and everyone was happy, pleased, and proud of how he had turned out.
Last Thursday Anthony had a bad cold so his mother took him to the doctor to make sure it wasn't anything serious. The doctor said it was just a cold so there was no need to worry. He went to bed that evening as usual but somehow, somewhere in the night, he slipped away from us. We don't know what happened yet, but whatever it was it took him from us and left us all so heartbroken. He had fought so hard and had done so well that it doesn't seem possible that things could have turned so quickly and so unexpectedly.
The hurt is still fresh for all of us who loved him, but I had to say something now because he deserves words of praise. He came into the world having to fight for himself, and all his life he showed great strength and courage. He was a loyal and worthy companion, and little brother to Robbie, and a caring, affectionate, and protective big brother to Michael. He was loved and cherished by every one of us and an inspiration to all who knew him. They say it is not how long we live that matters but rather how well we live. Anthony lived well. He gave life his all, and lit up the lives of all those around him. The world seems darker to us now in our sorrow, but it is not. When our tears have dried we will see the truth: that the world is a far brighter, better place for having had him in it. Go bless him.