I had this uncle. A long time ago. He was married to my Mom’s sister, and is the father of my two cousins. These two cousins were my only two cousins who lived in California, and my Mom was close with her sister, so we saw them frequently. Ever summer at Bass Lake, as much holiday as we could stand. And we wrote letters the old fashioned way. And we colored in coloring books. And we fooled around. And smoked cigarettes. A lot.
Uncle Benny was married to my Aunt Pat sometime in the 50’s, and they were married until sometime in the 60s. The dates are hazy, because I was a 10 year old you see. I remember the day that my Mom and Dad sat us on the piano bench, and told us that Aunt Pat and Uncle Benny were getting a divorce. I didn’t even know what a divorce was, but I knew that it meant they wouldn’t be together any more. And, I remember feeling nothing about it really. But, I remember in the years that followed, he always said to me, “I’m your Uncle Benny. For always.” That even though they divorced he still considered me his niece.
Uncle Benny died yesterday. At 80 years old. My cousin moved back to Virginia to be near him, and they forged a wonderful relationship, which goes to prove that you can have a crap relationship with your parent, but in the end…you get to re-do it and change it and make it into something new…with forgiveness and love.
I was sad when I heard the news. I am currently trying to get back there to be with my cousin. This is the older cousin who gave me my first drink, who taught me about all things 60s. Who I watched drop acid on Christmas, who told me there was no Santa Claus. I loved her to death, and wanted to be her. She was the coolest, and still is. And I would walk to the ends of the earth for her…And, she’s a grownup now. With grandchildren…having just barely survived the 60s. Barely.
So, here’s what I remember about Uncle Benny. Duro-Dyne shirts. Virginia. Red headed. Boxer. But, the real deal is this. The man let us eat chocolate ice cream…right out of the box (box? we had tubs)…for dinner. Now, whatever you do for a kid, this lives on in infamy. That’s my biggest and best memory. Because when I was 10, it was about doing something I couldn’t do on home territory.
I know there is more to a man’s life than this, but I hope when he gets to the gates that there is chocolate ice cream for Uncle Benny…and he can know that however small it may seem, that this gesture told me it was okay… once in a while…to do what you want…to break the rules.
Peace & love,
Your niece, Linda