Hurricane Ike will go down in the books as one of the worst storms to have ever affected me in my relatively short lifetime.
No, I did not have my home washed away by a 15-foot storm surge and all of my worldly possessions are still in good shape. To save myself an angry letter or two, I will just say right now that I am not comparing my pain to that of those in Galveston. This is my own story, and should be seen as such, without comparison.
I grew up without ever really knowing my father. I know who he is, but that's about as far as it goes for me. I could probably count the number of times I've seen him in my life on just my two hands.
In fact, the last time I saw him was in high school just before my graduation, but the anger I bore that day has led to a lot of that meeting being somewhat of a blur. Before that, he was only a question in my mind.
As I have stated in previous columns, I grew up with my six uncles serving as father figures. Admirable, for sure, but there is something unfulfilling about watching a father-son connection, such as those between my cousins and their dads, and not being able to relate.
One of my younger sisters became pregnant a few years ago and later gave birth to my nephew, whom I call Nicky. After coming to terms with my sister's pregnancy, I embraced the opportunity to be an uncle to the little guy (or girl).
My family moved to Louisiana about a month or so before my sister's due date, but I stayed put in Corpus Christi for my own reasons. Rather than being there for my nephew every day, though, I was now put in the position to be that distant uncle.
You know the one who sends gifts through the mail and only gets seen a few days out of the year. Of course, I try to visit with him over webcam and such to keep my face familiar to him, but nothing beats the trips my girlfriend and I have made the past two years specifically for his birthday.
For a few days, I get to hang out with him, and each year the experience has been different. My first trip, he was still crawling and just barely getting the hang of standing up with the help of a couch.
He was shy with me at the beginning, but by the end of the day on my first trip, he was using my legs to help himself stand while looking up at me with a smile I cherish each and every time I visit.
Last year, when he turned two, he was walking and running around like a small blur of lightning. He could even say my name and other words, usually repeating anything he heard, much to the chagrin of his mother. It was amazing to see how fast he seemed to be growing up.
This year, he started school. My girlfriend and I sent him a pair of shoes that have reportedly become his favorite to wear since he can put them on and off by himself (they're Velcro).
But plans for us to head to Louisiana for his third birthday were thrown for a loop with Hurricane Ike. His zig-zagging pattern through the Gulf of Mexico led to a decision not to go after all. This seemed like a good idea, given that the storm made landfall in Galveston and Houston, devastating both cities.
For me, the storm cost me something more precious than anything I own - memories. So as my girlfriend and I sat and watched a 30-second video my youngest sister sent me Sunday showing my nephew singing "Happy Birthday" along with other partygoers, I couldn't help but feel a little sad as I smiled.