When asked how her two twenty-something sons are doing, my cousin replies with a roll of her eyes how neither one has their feet on the ground.
When I once overheard her say this, I was rather startled. After all, I have watched John and Teddy grow up since infancy. They were always good-natured, spirited, outgoing, well-behaved, industrious kids. Why, they began earning money soon after reaching double digits in age, cleaning the whale watching boat or directing cars in the pier parking lot.
In school they did quite well, both academically and socially. They had so many darn friends that it was hard for visitors to discern who belonged to the parents of the household because mornings would often find several classmates asleep in various parts of the house.
These were responsible teens. Once, John was allowed to have a party when his parents were out. But it quickly got out of hand, with uninvited older teens crashing the party, bringing beer and other parentally forbidden mood enhancers. John, realizing this was too big a problem for him to handle alone, took his phone outside and called the police - on his own party! - for them to "drop by" and break it up.
In high school, Teddy joined a volunteer group with the local police department, and was visibly moved when elderly people wept over the sudden collapse of their longtime spouse. His empathy reached far beyond his years and he was able to offer comfort during these moments that would shame those of us who have been around longer.
They are eager participants in the kitchen, too. Each has their own talents. One is terrific with garlic mashed potatoes, the other on barbeque duty. And my cousin has no need to lament the lack of feminine company in this room because, heck, how many daughters would just pitch in and do the dishes?
And then there are their personalities. John, with his dry, wry humor can crack us up with his quiet commentary, often so offhand you have to listen carefully or you might miss it. Teddy is the more exuberant one. He can always find the humor in something and will roar with laughter, shaking his 6 foot 5 inch frame until the house shakes along with him.
They are sentimental too. My cousin kept track of their increasing height throughout the years on a support post in their den. During a recent remodel, in which the post no longer looked so good, they convinced their parents to wrap the post in new wood, complete with a long skinny door that could open to reveal those long-ago markings.
So when she tells people with a roll of her eyes that neither son has their feet on the ground, I should wait a moment until her devilish grin reveals exactly why that is so. As you can see for yourself from all of the above, it isn't because they are flaky or high on drugs or irresponsible.
No, it's because one son is a commercial airline pilot soaring miles above the ground, and the other is in submarine training with the United States Navy, patrolling several miles below the ground.
See, we all have concerns when it comes to our kids. But in this case, any concerns she has are laced heavily with enormous pride.
So maybe she should just tell her friends that they are simply out of this world!