Uncle

Truth - Siblings are the best gift your parents can ever give you. A question I often as people is whether they are an only child or not. As someone who often gets mistaken as one, the question gives some insight. I always follow up as to how close they are with their siblings, an even more telling answer. Everyone's familial situations are different. Deeply messed up stuff happens, and the people who are related to us can be awful. When families have healthy relationships though, the results can be truly awe-inspiring. You never know joy until you become an uncle.

"When I was young, an eccentric uncle decided to teach me how to lie. Not, he explained, because he wanted me to lie, but because he thought I should know how it's done so I would recognize when I was being lied to." Brian Eno
Being an uncle is by far my favorite personal identity. Beyond being a son to wonderful parents, and brother to four of the most dynamic people I have ever known is something special. Each and every day I am grateful for my immediate family, no matter our antics and frivolous arguments. I cannot imagine myself in another family or related to anyone else. I feel like my brothers and sister are part of the fabric of who I am as a person. Without them life would be nowhere near as fun, nor would I have made it this far in life. I wouldn't want to continue without them. Life doesn't seem to have a point unless the five of us are moving forward, changing the world with our various gifts and talents together. Then there is this undefined role of being an uncle to, at the moment, two amazing human beings. I don't really know what to say about them other than they bring me so much happiness. I think about them and I smile uncontrollably (much like I do when I call to mind the other four variations of the same person that I call siblings). They make me laugh with just the wonder and amazement through which they view the world. They are gentle, kind, and brilliant. They never cease to amaze me. They just exist and with their simplicity comes a radiant clarity. The bond I have with them is just electric. From the moment they entered this world it was as if my spirit knew. I hold their little fingers and just stare in pure admiration. Those are my nieces. I get to be part of their lives. I get to watch them grow up into full-fledged contributing members of society; I have a feeling they'll be a forefront of any communities that have the privilege of hosting them.

It's funny because the way I see my nieces is the same way I see my own future children. In fact, I don't really see a difference, save for how often I might see them, but when it comes to supporting them, I'm all in. For me, my eldest brothers often took care of me and the rest of the pipsqueak brat pack back in the day. I was loved by so many people in my household and it is that love that has made me who I am today. Now I get the chance to give that love back others. Whether it's chasing around a little person to feed them, changing full diapers, or having coherent conversations in baby-talk, it's the least I can do. It's crawling on the ground and giving horsie rides, reading cardboard books, and cleaning up all the bodily fluids with a smile. It's the tea parties, repeated questions, and perpetual excitement. It's kissing boo-boos, communicating in sign language, and the pre-nap time grumpiness. It's love, unabashed, unconditional, wholehearted love.  Every moment spent as an uncle is a gift. I get to practice my caretaking. My biggest wish is that my own children will be something like my nieces and all the other cousins to come. Those will be their role models. I hope that they become close and stick together. If they are intentional in doing so, their bond as cousins can be just as close if not closer than that of siblings.

I am someone who believes in the concept and the practice of chosen family. I know that we can chose the people we allow into our lives, and those we remain close to. It's such a powerful notion. It's affirming a commitment to remain steadfast as a support system for someone you are not necessarily related to. It's treating those people with that condition-less trust and respect that you grant your family. No matter what your bond cannot be broken. Regardless of what comes your way, your connection cannot be severed. In spite of everything around you, your entanglement can never be unwound. Chosen family is not something to be taken lightly. In a world where we can be forsaken by so many, there's nothing worse than being wronged by those who are enlisted for a lifetime to love us, and to be loved by us.

Family means working through the rough stuff. There are no people that can cut you deeper than those that know the most about you. Hell they me even leave traumatic scars, literally and figuratively. Family is not like the friends, acquaintances, and passerbys that may come and go. They are there when everyone else has departed. They are there even when you don't deserve it. They are they there just to be there, and sometimes that is astronomically more than enough. You love them not by ignoring their flaws, imperfections, and inequities but rather by embracing the entirety of them because we're all works in progress. Family are those where we first practice forgiveness and yet somehow forget how to do so when it matters most. We know they are people that can never leave but it does not diminish the imperativeness of sincere apologies, honest conversations, and commitment to behavioral/attitudinal changes. While the hurt may not always lead to separation, family ties are not immunity to toxicity. The build up of our family stuff can have dire consequences for not only us but others around. Family can be poisoned lest an antidote of care, peace, and love be administered. We have to preach and put into practice the grace we show strangers with our families, blood or chosen. We have to give one another the benefit of the doubt, assume good intentions, and work towards resolutions, as opposed to ignoring, or insufficiently bandaging, major issues. We have to commit to being better, and choosing to change. We owe it to ourselves and our families. Say uncle and cave. X
 

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