In the shadowed quiet of their blanket fort on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, Devon and his nephew built dinosaurs and boats and tall buildings with plastic bricks. “Uncle Dev,” Small Lee asked, “what was my father like when he was five?”
Devon, as he always did when the boy had questions about his parents, weighed his words before speaking, considering the answer most appropriate for his age. “He was a lot like you, joka. He liked to play games and have fun. He was really smart and loved to tease our mother. But she didn’t have a nice sense of humor about it like Grandmimi does.”
“I wish I had a brother.” His mouth settled into a thoughtful pout.
Devon’s chest clenched, and he cleared his throat. “I could be a sort-of brother.”
Small Lee’s nose wrinkled. “What is sort-of brother?”
“Brother can mean more things besides guys who have the same parents. It can also mean guys who are friends. Like us. We play games and get ice cream and have adventures.”
The boy looked up from his latest creation, half dinosaur, half truck, a mottled bluish cast from their woven roof falling across his face. “But you’re Uncle Dev.”
Gazing into that little face—his father’s floppy cowlick and mischievous eyes, his mother’s pointed chin and rosebud lips—Devon couldn’t help a sad smile and a ruffle of the child’s hair. When he’d finally regained his powers of speech after seeing his minutes-old nephew for the first time, he’d introduced himself as uncle. He could again feel that tiny squirming bundle in his arms, the first infant he’d ever held—in fact, Devon had been the first family member to ever hold Lee Song Park. The gravity of that stopped him for a moment.
“People can be”—Devon searched for answers in the stitching of the blanket—“more than one thing to each other. Like Uncle Doctor and Grandmimi are also like father and mother for you. I can be uncle and friend and sort-of brother.” He paused, watching his nephew absorb the information. “Only if you want that, though.”
“Can sort-of brothers have secrets?”
“Can I still call you Uncle Dev?”
“Can we still play Xbox at your house with Uncle Tank?”
“Yes, but that has to be a sometimes thing.”
“Grandmimi’s rules,” the boy sighed, tossing in a dramatic eye roll.
Devon tried not to laugh. Yes, he was definitely his father’s son.
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