The last birthday of the year brings us to Wolverine, who turns 11 years old today. The oldest of the kids, Wolverine is deeply, powerfully sensitive, and he reminds me of an insect with gigantic feelers, testing out your mood and feelings the instant you enter a room, instantly feeling out the vibes of everyone around him. Your best performance won’t sidestep his inquisitive regard and then a quick “What’s wrong?” He knows when something is out of whack, whether you want him to or not.
As the oldest, he has the strongest memories of his family before the divorce, and seems to struggle the most with what he remembers, what he has been told to remember, and what is the truth. He has pieced things together as best as he can, and he rises to the occasion as a little adult instead of a child, which has been painful to watch. I met him when he was 8 years old, but his eyes were much older, always on the watch for…what? After being sucker punched out of the blue, I think he was on guard for anything and everything, and to an extent, still is.
When Wolverine relaxes, sits down, and plays with his action figures or gets silly and laughs and jokes with us, I am relieved to see the child feel safe enough to emerge, the little adult tucked away for a while. I watch him, immersed in his play, and I wish with all my heart for him to be able to enjoy that as long as possible. Childhood is something he will not be able to get back later.
For some reason, this is the hardest birthday post to write. Wolverine is so multi-faceted, and I worry so much that he will exhaust himself worrying about everyone else, worrying about making everyone else happy, and will lose touch with himself, what is important to him. If I could teach him anything, it would be to not lose his gentleness and sensitivity, but to remember that he is important too, and that it is not his job to make other people happy. I would like for him to know that sticking up for what is right, even if upsets other people, is more important than harmony at the expense of truth or integrity.
But for right now, I’d like for him to know that he is loved, that it is safe to just be a kid sometimes, that there was nothing he could have done to stop the divorce and that none of it was his fault. I don’t believe he accepts that in his heart. Maybe he hasn’t been allowed to.
I am grateful for Wolverine’s open heart. I know that accepting me into his life during a time that he was in pain was not easy, and I know it took a lot to be willing to give me a try. Wolverine trusted his father enough to trust me, and he told Gary a long time ago that he was glad I am here to take care of him, because he didn’t want Gary to be alone. To be grateful for this then-stranger in his life instead of angry or resentful is an example of Wolverine’s love for his father, his immense heart, and his willingness to love even after being hurt. That is more than most adults are capable of, and one of the many reasons I am so fiercely proud of him.
Happy birthday, Wolverine!