Fifty isn’t old but when you are a hair short of 25 it sounds ancient. Been thinking a bit about how turbulent my forties have been and wondering when life might resemble whatever it is I thought it might look like when I was younger.
Been looking at the men in my family and thinking about their situations and the realization that 50 isn’t old hit me like a ton of bricks. That is because I was thinking about my dad’s little brother and wondering what he might have to say about some things. Thinking about how similar he was to my dad and grandpa and yet how very different.
Dad, grandpa and I share more than just DNA in common. We all got married, became fathers and worked as the sole breadwinner, but my uncle has a different story.
He was gay and lived during a time when gay marriage was nothing but a dream. Â I remember when he told me he was HIV+ and I remember his funeral with crystal clarity.
I was him, he was me and grandpa and dad but he wasn’t us. We didn’t give a damn about his choices because he was family and we loved him.
Can’t remember a time when writing about him didn’t make me wish he was still here.
Fifty Isn’t Old
That is me in the photo above, 43 and participating in Movember but I wonder if my uncle would recognize me. I wonder if he still saw me as being some little kid or if he really saw me as being a kid of 25.
Maybe he did, I am not sure but what I am certain of is that even though I knew then he was quite young it is now that I recognize just how young he was when he died.
Fifty is still a few years off but I have more than a few friends who crossed that line long ago and god knows a million cousins that have too. All theÂ big onesÂ I used to look up to are standing on the other side.
So here I am thinking about visiting him while I was in college and being surprised to find him listening to Guns N’Roses. It seems so silly and juvenile of me now, why should I have been surprised that he was listening toÂ cool music.
Maybe it was just me. Maybe I was the one with the perception issue. It doesn’t really matter. If I found out that he still pictured me as as a little boy I won’t care any more than I would if he saw me as a man.
Time Moves So Very Quickly
I am listening to GNR now and maybe it is coincidence, but their cover of Knockin On Heaven’s Door just came on. I’ll take it as a hello from somewhere else.
What IÂ knowÂ is that I would have very much liked for him to meet my family. My daughter thought I was kidding when I told him that grandpa had a younger brother.
Dad just laughed because his grandchildren can do no wrong, but it bothered me a bit. Bothered me because even though we didn’t live in the same city we still saw him frequently and he was at every major family event until he wasn’t.
That is just how it was and still is in my family.
We show up. We go to family parties for all sorts of things.
Not everyone does that. I listen to some of my friends talk about how they hate family events and I feel badly. I don’t always love them and like everyone else I know there are family members on both sides that irritate me.
But family is important.
Can’t rely on everyone but family is always there and it is important to me to make sure my kids see that.
Streets Of Philadelphia
I remember seeing my uncle kiss his boyfriend once and I remember not being sure what to make of it. I was 18 and trying to figure out what it meant to be a man.
My uncle wasn’t the stereotypical gay man and he didn’t push that kiss in my face. It was as natural and normal as the way I kissed my girlfriend back then.
I remember going to see Streets of Philadelphia in the theater. I remember two guys in front of me silently sobbing through the movie and trying to figure out if I would feel any different at my uncle’s funeral. He wasn’t dead yet, but HIV was a death Â sentence so I knew it was coming.
Feels kind of silly saying that because it is obvious. It hurt. I loved my uncle and I missed him. We all did.
Nineteen years later I still do.