My Uncle has a thick band of periwinkle blue embedded between two encircling rounds of brown within his irises. Like the wonder of blue phosphorescence against the pitch black of ocean – it is all that you can see and all that seems to matter. This wonder is curtained behind sweeping eyelashes set on almond shaped eyes. His skin is a dark brown sugar, much like mine has baked into under the relentless Miami summer sun and my refusal to stay indoors with sleeves. He is tall, exact and doesn’t mince very many words or notions. He is all business first and pleasure later. He is adventurous yet steadily constant.
When I first noticed his eyes as I sat across from him at a Miami branch of my Father’s bank, I wondered if maybe his eyes had cataracts or had been the recipient of trauma. Unsure of how to tactfully ask the man I had just begun to know since the passing of my Father, I said nothing and took his direction on what we came to do: bury the financial part of my Dad.
I had not been able to attend the burial of my Father’s body in his home country. The trip, impossible only in it’s toughness for compromised muscles unused to the strain of out country travel, had been foregone. The day my Father’s body was to be shipped overseas, I looked into the air at a random passing plane going in the general direction of where he needed to go and I wept silently, issuing him a passing prayer and poem. That was the extent of my participation in his Homegoing.
I struggle now, still with how to grieve his passing because I didn’t get the pomp and circumstance a viewing and burial allows. Almost two months gone and I stifle the urge to dial his number and hear his voice. An internal clock ticks off the too many weeks since we last spoke and urges me to take time from my minutia and call him before he worries that something has happened to me. I almost don’t listen for my phone to ring anymore because I know it won’t be his special ringtone that will sound:
Your Dad is calling you,
wants to see what you’re up to.
If you wait till this song is through,
you just might miss him…
… though I secretly hope it is.
My Uncle – this brown skinned, blue eyed conundrum is the closest link to the man I knew as my Dad. I sometimes dread talking to him and wish to never stop speaking with him because in the growing, at times uncomfortable conversations that we have, I hear the whispers of my Dad’s laughter, the flashes of his humor or the guidance of his wisdom and my heart skips a few beats. Like I am expecting him back from one of his long jaunts from retirement life with a deep throated “Sandy!!! How are ya?!”.
My Uncle of course doesn’t know any of this because I haven’t been able to find the words to explain to him how emotional this is for me. Though I can only imagine how difficult it has been for him to lose his Best Friend and Older Brother. We are both passengers in this boat rocked by sorrow, each pulling our respective oar in an effort to navigate to the next port. It is clumsy and it feels blind but we are all each other has in the journey.
My Dad did not always do well by me or my older brother, so I will not pretend that I don’t still have questions that he wasn’t able to answer in a way I could understand. But I also can’t pretend that I did not grow to understand or even love my Dad. I did. I do. I miss him in strange surprising ways every day.
But then there is my Uncle, whose exacting presence makes me wonder why I ever worry or why I think there is a problem when he is around. Because while he was here to see about my Father’s affairs, there weren’t any problems. Not that my Dad was missing from our midst, not that the sun was too hot, not that we were dismantling a part of my Dad’s life in reams of white paper riddled with black ink and vain signatures. Like an avatar of all my Dad meant, my Uncle breathed life into my understanding of familial connections, colored in the dark areas of my knowing and is for me the peace in this turmoil.
And in the same moments of me watching him, watching me, I am pulled back into the verity of the situation and realize that my Dad has died. This new/familiar person that is sitting opposite me is his own entity, full of his own experiences, rich with his own set of stories that I get to listen to. And once again I ask myself why am I so worried?
But I am.
This growing friendship between me and my Uncle is simple and complex. It is easy for me to pick up the phone and speak with him. Complicated only because I miss the fathering my Dad had done for me over these past few years and wish not to inflict that on my Uncle because I am thorny in places, unforgiving in others and a puddle of tears in spots where only my Dad had known and understood. I miss my Dad. And love my Uncle for who I will learn him to be.