Happy Birthday, Cuz


Today is my oldest first cousin’s 27th birthday. Zach is approaching 30.

Of the four grandsons, Zach is and always has been the sweetest and kindest. I’m not saying this just because he’s my cousin and I love him dearly, but he was truly an angelic child. Just look at the picture. All kidding aside, though, I’ve never met anyone within my family or without with the level of innate compassion, concern, and just downright decency Zach has always exhibited.

My theory is he used up all his angst getting here. He did give Aunt Cathy fits while she was carrying him. It seems like she was in the hospital more than she was at home for those nine months. He was perfect once he got here though. Ten fingers and ten toes and a precious smile that didn’t look a bit gassy. I hate to admit this now, but I completely resented his arrival. Understand that I was the ONLY grandchild on BOTH sides of my family for 12 years. I had Granny and Papa Wham all to myself AND I had Aunt Cathy and Uncle Larry all to myself.

Then Nick was born and not even five years later, Zach came along. I was losing market share at an unacceptably steep rate. It was hard to stay jealous of the little twerp though. He was white headed and cooed on command. He was just a great baby. The great baby grew into a wonderful school aged boy and the boy became a fascinating man. He wasn’t always perfect, but he was close. I was an utter hellion in high school and my little brother, Nick, raised his good and honest share of Cain as well.

Not Zach.

About the closest Zach ever came to being “wild” was during his freshman and sophomore years of high school. He was a living doll by then with white, straight hair, a nice tan, and a dazzling – no braces needed – smile. Well the girls just wanted to sop him up with a biscuit. ALL the girls. Black girls, white girls, Latinas, freshmen, upperclassmen, goths and cheerleaders. He was a pick for them all and for just a little while, it went to his head. I still remember Aunt Cathy calling me distraught and near tears because Zach had LIED to her about something to do with a party. Now I remember it being very minor, but at the same time . . . this was ZACH! He didn’t lie to his mama!

That phase didn’t last very long though. By the time he graduated high school and went off to Clemson University, he’d settled down completely. He did average in college and he never really gave any clue what his plans were. I don’t think any of us had any idea what he had in mind.

We sure never figured on him going into the ministry!

He did, though. Like I said, Zach was never a wild child in even the broadest sense, but during college, he got involved in a group of Christians unlike any he’d ever met (unlike any I’D ever met to be honest) and his life took on a completely new direction. It was like watching a diamond get a final cut and shine.

I knew he was serious when he announced right before Granny Wham passed away that he was moving to Gainesville, Florida to take a position as a youth / college minister at a progressive church he’d heard about down there in U of F land. Zach is as big a mama’s boy as me and he followed the Lord’s call to Florida because that’s where he was meant to be. I remember Aunt Cathy crying a little, but it’s like she said, “It’s hard to cry over a son who’s following the Lord.”

As it turns out, a ministry wasn’t all my little cousin found in Gainesville. All through his growing up, Zach had his pick of any girl he wanted. Problem is, at least for them, is he never seemed to find “the right one.” He was always good and kind to the girls he dated, but several of them shed tears when they realized they weren’t going to land this perfect husband.

All of them except Ashley, that it.

I knew he was completely serious about marrying her when he brought her to Christmas morning to be vetted by Daddy, Nick, and me. None of the three of us are famous for holding our opinions and if he was prepared to introduce her to us . . . well, she must really be special. Turns out she was.

I hate weddings about as much as I hate leaving South Carolina. But this was Zach and he and Ash were special enough for Budge and me to drive all the way to Gainesville and back one beautiful April day to see them walk down the aisle. She was beautiful in white . . . and one of the only brides I’ve ever been willing to put money on her credentials to wear that pure color. Zach was handsome, but most of all, they were happy.

Still are. Now we’re just waiting on the beautiful babies to come along. So get cracking, you two! It’s been over a year now and I’m not getting any younger!

Happy Birthday, Cuz. We love you tons and I am unashamedly and overwhelmingly proud of you!

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