Losing my uncle Louis was indeed bittersweet. One day (I know not which–because the days often blend together), I paced my grandmother’s home. I asked myself. Why are there no Christmas decorations up? And then I understood quickly, Christmas is not in packaging, in witty references to Santa, aboard the Polar Express, or present in the pomp that reflects our gayest apparel. It’s hard to celebrate when you’re blue. And I’m just blue right now.
Christmas is about love. Love, that I definitely wasn’t feeling when I realized my Uncle Louis joined the spirit world and left this temporal place.
I felt sorrow. But I also felt a since of completion…and the urge to be thankful that someone else’s life struggle was finished. Funerals are not for the people who died. They are for those left behind—-the survivors that have to keep living in the wake of such immediate finality.
When I think of my uncle’s influence on me, I think of the blues. And boy did “UNC” and grandma have it. They struggled together to share even when sharing could pull them apart. They called me: the deacon or “DEAC”.
I never wanted the name. They just gave it to me. That blessing and curse, hoisted like a lasso upon me, because both my uncle and his sister believed me to be a spirit healer.
I could receive them. And I often did. I received all their blues. One can be blue, even when the smile is easy. My grandma stayed awake worrying about my uncle. She was worried in the morning, worried at noon, worried in the middle of Family Feud. And when he sat in the chair next to her, She could let loose her frustration. For she is the female Rodney Dangerfield to his very visceral Lenny Bruce. She could let down her hair and be brutal with her sibling, knowing some strange condition that he might not see.
And as my grandma loved him…
I was there to take my grandma’s side when people broke her heart, there offering good-natured encouragement when strife was unavoidable. With holly decked and tree-trimmed, I’d be the singer, the teacher, the muse, the friend, and the partner-in-crime. At gatherings, I’d try to focus the good, even when the good seemed lost. I was the bartender, the YES-MAN, and the regrettable referee.
But it’s adverse in the middle trying to radiate gentleness in many rough and tumble situations.
Little Milton bellowed: “Hey, hey. The blues is alright.” And the blues is alright—–unless it masks some deep unresolved psychological trauma.
I have vivid memories of my uncle sharing his troubles with everyone. He shared his blues with his sister, the woman I’m indebted to in spirit and truth for teaching me about hard work. When you’re as close to your sister as my uncle was to our grandma, you can’t help but feel compassion for the plight of two people so intimately intertwined. I don’t feel sadness or regret. I just feel ambivalence.
I’ll miss the fish and potato salad he offered me. And he liked to fry his “sack-a-layed”. I’ll miss the grilled steaks that he made. I was afraid to touch anything in his kitchen, for fear that I wouldn’t put it back the way I found it. I’ll miss the handshakes. I’ll miss his laugh—-that was bigger and boom-ier than a Kentwood speaker. I’ll miss how he made my grandma smile brighter than the sun.
I’ll miss the random visits that I couldn’t prepare for. HE WAS ALWAYS AT OUR HOUSE! I’ll miss his pride after cutting lots of grass on a HUGE, MONUMENTAL tractor. I’ll miss the joy he felt in playing music, the comedian he was at his house parties. I’ll miss his mini-sermons about how his method of doing things was the only method. I’ll miss the stories about his life that I didn’t get to hear because some of them were too painful.
I will miss our telephone repairman. I’ll miss his presence at holiday memorials and Jehovah’s Witness congregations. He said to me that if the Library made me happy, I should stay there.
He also said that: If graduate study helps me become the professional I aspire to be, I should be courageous and go for it.
He did impact my life in a complicated way, a way that explains why many of us are so nomadic, never truly stationed at a fixed destination. We are all searching for something. And what we search for isn’t always what we need.
But we grab at anything that eases the silences in our hearts: a cocktail hour, a secret rendezvous, a forlorn song, or a special fishing hole. We will never be able to conceptualize why wanderers journey beyond the sea, cruise to God knows where, with God knows who. Only the ticket-holder knows where that trip is headed.
He was a Navy man. Maybe that’s why he loved to ramble on and on about how fun his cruises were. He accepted me as a man—-in his own way, at his own time. I am glad I waited. It was an albatross’s journey. We reached a reasonable place where acknowledging my Cerebral Palsy wasn’t as a big a deal to him as he once imagined.
I loved him with a fear that ebbed and flowed between intimidation and honor, between sympathy and cynicism.
All I know is that:
I loved him the best way I could. And I loved HARD even when I could not rightly love myself. He was a father to me, in his way. But all is well in my heart. I can only hope that he found peace on his way to meet the great I AM.
Goodbye, Uncle Louis. “Deac” will miss you.