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.
TheJackB October 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm
KtheboxerÂ Hi K,
Thanks. I actually have a few years but it is close enough to see so I have been thinking about it. I think the trick is to keep going.
TheJackB October 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm
michellelongoÂ Hi Michelle, that is how I feel sometimes too. At 44 I am not looked at as being part of the twenty something crowd (not really trying to hang with them) but I don’t feel like I am middle aged either.
Ktheboxer October 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm
Jack, this post really touched me. Â I teared up at the end.Â
I feel you with the turning fifty thing. Â I still can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s happening to me. How could that be? On the inside, I’m so young and hip ; )
One of my favorite things about this piece is your picture. I love every aspect of it! You’re going to rock the fifties.
michellelongo October 20, 2013 at 5:40 am
I remember being young and thinking it funny when “old” people did “young” people thing. Â I still don’t know where I fit in – at 37 I don’t feel young or old, but I don’t feel like I fit in with anyone either. Â It makes me wonder what people think when they see me. Do they think I see young or old? Odd to think about.
Sorry about your uncle.
TheJackB October 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm
Late_BloomersÂ Hi Barbara,
I guess we just do the best we can to take advantage of whatever time we have to try to spend it with the people we care about.
TheJackB October 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm
Hi Adrienne. I don’t think of 50 as being old at all anymore. It is funny how time affects our perspective. One moment somethings are far and the next…
It is hard getting people together. Life is busy and even when people try to make arrangements in advance things happen. Forty sounds like a pretty decent size group. Sometimes smaller is a bit easier because you don’t have as many people to try to catch up with. My family always goes crazy with that kind of thing, we feel badly more aren’t there but when they are…
I am with you about trying to do our best to take advantage of time because like you said, you just never know.
TheJackB October 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm
treptalksÂ Yep, spins on a dime.
Late_Bloomers October 19, 2013 at 12:32 am
What a lovely tribute to your uncle, Josh. Hey, do not worry about age, shaving took 10 years off you (I know …. MOVEMBER). Wonder what I should do, but maybe nothing at all. Live in the present and when a family event calls, I will make sure to be there.
treptalks October 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm
Life is indeed very short.
AdrienneSmith October 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm
Hey Jack, trust me on this one my friend. Â 50 is NOT old. Â I’m way past that now and heading into the home stretch of the big 60. Â Still got several years to go but man I can’t believe how close it is now.Â
My uncle is gay too and the only boy in that family. Â He’s still with us and still has a regular partner. Â I still love him just the same, he’s family.
We had our family reunion in July as well and had almost 40 of us there, still not everyone. Â We can never seem to get them all there no matter how far in advance we plan but I love my family. Â I’ll see some of them again in a few weeks when we make that drive to where my Dad is buried to pay our respects. Â It’s hard for me to understand those people who aren’t close to their family either. Â That’s just not how we are. Â
Enjoy your life every single day my friend and cherish the moments. Â I lost my best friend two days after our family reunion and he had just celebrated his 44th birthday. Â We just never know when our time will come.
Enjoy your weekend Jack…