I remember when Shelby turned ten years old in 2003. I had told both she and her sister Ashton that I'd give them a big trip for that milestone birthday. Her sister chose to visit me in NYC for her celebration, but Shelby had already made that northern trip with family before she turned ten and chose instead to head south to Florida. We planned the trip to coincide with my Christmas visit of 2002 which would be a month prior to her birthday. Everything was set for us to fly to Florida and enjoy the December warmth at Universal Studios. Only the week before we left, my dad - her Papaw passed away. We went from a funeral to Christmas all within the same week. And as I spoke to my mother and Shelby's mother - the three of us decided dad would want Shelby to go on that trip. And so we went. I spent the days and nights keeping a soon-to-be ten year old girl laughing and having fun while we both were still dealing with the pain of his death. But we managed to do it and had a great time in the process. It's a very different experience to be just two people at a huge theme park, especially when one is a 33 year old man and the other a 9 year old girl. Everyone would think I was her dad and we would laugh about it. We rode rides, saw shows, and got the live experience of The Grinch which had just come out as a movie two years prior. I had a wonderful time being one-on-one with my niece since those moments are few and far between. I usually see her once a year and she is always so much older and changes each time I see her. But I remember how on that particular trip, she seemed older to me than she ever had before. Universal turned tears into laughter and we walked away with treasured memories that we can look back on - knowing those memories are only shared by a now young woman of 18 and her very proud uncle.