If you have been in my orbit in recent weeks, there is a decent chance you have heard me bragging about my nephew, Kenan Sayers. If so, you could skip today’s column because I am going to do that again, mindful that most of the readers have not had the pleasure of my immediate company and why should they be spared.
Before I do that, some context. I do not have grandchildren to spoil, so I have taken on the role of Favorite Uncle for my three nephews, Kenan, Paul Owens and Dustin Douglas, as well as my three nieces, Douglas Sayers, Claire Joy Jobe and Jill Margaret Pierce.
Being Favorite Uncle is a great gig and easy to do. Go big on birthdays and during Christmas, and when there is a spat between a niece or nephew and your sibling, take the child’s side.
You do not have to deal with the vagaries of raising a child from birth, pick up the tab for such things as food, a vehicle or a college education, and if done correctly, you enjoy some of the same benefits of being a parent, but in smaller doses.
The best part? If the child decides to throw a tantrum, you flee and let sibling take care of the brat.
All my nieces and nephews are wonderful and unique, but the bow that binds them is they all have big hearts and are empathetic. I know I run a risk here today, that a cousin of Kenan’s becomes jealous of the acclaim this column will bestow upon him, but none of them did what Kenan just did, which is to graduate from the University of North Carolina with a boatload of academic honors, as well as a T-shirt for being on the unbeaten intramural basketball championship team. He might be most proud of that T-shirt.
Kenan earned a 3.82 GPA in Psychology while minoring in Exercise and Sports Science and Hispanic Studies, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and was the first-ever recipient of the Chancellor Guskiewicz Research Fellowship. He is headed to graduate school at Michigan State University to affix a Dr. in front of his name for Clinical Psychology. His fellowship focus has been sports-related head injuries suffered by athletes, including NFL players. His independent research focuses on the relationship between exercise and anxiety.
So, his academic track was different than mine.
He does not drink alcohol, and I have never heard him use a curse word, so further separation from me. He is exceedingly polite and kind to everyone.
I knew he and his sister were special following a moment during a family vacation at Bald Head Island about 18 years ago. It was 9 p.m. and the party was just starting when my sister Margaret, Kenan and Douglas’ mom, clapped her hands and told them it was time to go to bed. What followed was almost magical as Kenan and Douglas jumped up without protest, and marched downstairs and went to bed.
That was not how I and my siblings did it as kids.
Steve and Margaret are both psychologists, with Margaret specializing in children, so it is not a surprise that they did this parenting thing so well – and with apologies, better than my folks. I am part of the evidence.
I do not know if this is the best part or not, but I have saved it for last. Both Douglas and Kenan were adopted, mixed race children, and while I do not know that Steve and Margaret saved their lives, I am quite sure they gave them better ones than most children who enter the world similarly saddled.
Kenan’s father is African American and was a high school football star at a high school in Texas, playing quarterback, before going on to play in college and becoming a PE teacher. His mother is white, a blonde and beautiful, and today is a nurse. I met them last weekend as they are an important part of Kenan’s life.
Let’s just say Kenan hit the jackpot twice, both in the gene pool and with the two who picked him.
Now there is a moral to today’s story, and it is this: While Kenan is obviously special, in one way he is not unlike all children who are born into this world in that what he needed to prosper was to be smothered with love and given a smidgen of opportunity.
Steve and Margaret provided that to Kenan as well as Douglas, making this world a better place. I’m a proud brother as well.
Reach Donnie Douglas by email at [email protected] .