Here’s the scene; Elizabeth Black had just graduated from our alma mater, USC. She walked across the stage a few hours before we gathered for a nice dinner to celebrate her new life accomplishment of becoming a Gamecock forever.
As we were finishing up, her dad, awkwardly but fittingly, thought it would be a good idea to go around the room and say something about Elizabeth. He tried to begin with me. Not being ready for this, I stalled like a pro. Upon further thinking, I stalled like a punk. A little later, after everyone else had spoken, I heard her boyfriend say something like, “OK, now uncle Franklin is going to make us cry.” The others didn’t hear it, but I did.
Here’s the thing. There are some people I never want to disappoint, Elizabeth being one of them. That said, this inherent trait turned a 180 on itself. In short, my silence as to not disappoint was a disappointment in itself. Get it? It’s not about what I think I might have or should have said, it’s about what she may or would have heard. Lesson learned. Shame on me.
Here’s where this is hard and perplex to put into words in front of a room full of eyes and ears, even Elizabeth’s; Liz is my niece. Liz is my daughter’s aunt. Liz is my oldest daughter’s hero, favorite babysitter, and maybe even her favorite family member. That said, there’s a twist in our relationship my girls don’t know about yet…
To take it back a bit and give an idea of our relationship, here’s a post from a few years ago:
“Elizabeth was around three years old when we first met. My favorite memory together (when she was a kid) was a Black family vacation at Surfside Beach. It was a perfect South Carolina day, but I remember the ocean being a little rough. Big waves notwithstanding, for whatever reason Elizabeth jumped in my arms and we took to the surf. While the rest of the family hung out on the beach, Elizabeth let me hold her by the armpits, belly down with toes pointed towards the shore. The waves busted her in the head and face over and over…and over and over. This may be an exaggeration, but it felt like 500 waves crashed over us. My arms and legs were like rubber, but we kept going. Why? I had Elizabeth’s complete trust, and I knew I was in one of those life snapshots I wouldn’t ever forget. Seems I had a good hunch. She’s now at USC, and I’m 40 and typing about it.
To this day Elizabeth and I have a special bond. It’s one of those relationships whereby we can speak to each other through hand gestures, head movements, and eye squints. It’s pretty cool.
If you take a look at the pics above you can see why she could easily be “Miss South Carolina.” Of the pics, you can probably guess my favorite. Yep, it’s the one where she’s hugging her Pappa (grandfather), Mr. Black. What you’re looking at is the expression so many of us make when we hug this man. As meaningful as the photo is, however, you’re not even seeing the best part; The face on the other side.”
I listened to others speak about how close they were and about their ups and downs with Liz and the good times and the bad. While they were speaking it dawned on me that Elizabeth and I don’t do good times and bad as they were speaking about. Sure, no one is happy all the time or have the perfect life, but Elizabeth and I only do good together, good or bad. We’ve never been sideways with each other. We’ve only been awesome, or not awesome, together, and enjoyed a sort of language and trust that other folks in a room would ask, “Franklin, what do you know?” (and by ‘folks’, I sometimes mean her parents haha)
I don’t mean for this to be a long post, but as you can see from my beach post above Elizabeth and I have known each other a long time, and developed a life relationship. This is the little girl I held on the banks of Lake Marion while she cried her face off (I’ve come full circle with this with my twins, BTW). This is the young girl whose recitals I’d attend with pride, and the girlfriend of a**hole boyfriends. The Miss SC pageant contestant I yelled for, and the college student I wish I could have gone to class for. I’m 43 years old and I’ve bought one female bathing suit in my life. It was a cash exchange meet up in the 5-Points Food Lion parking lot. A little odd, but it was for Liz.
I could type forever… but to bring this all full circle please notice the shining medallion on Elizabeth’s neck in our most recent pic above. That medallion is Kinsey’s, and she wore it often. One side has Kinsey’s initials, and now the other, Elizabeth’s. Thoughtfully, Jennifer had this made and gave it to Elizabeth a few weeks ago.
Welcome, Elizabeth, to this new world. I’m sure you will ‘figure it out’ in a much shorter span than I did.
Congratulations to my Elizabeth Black. This is us…and I. Love. You.