I have a favorite Uncle. I know it’s wrong to play favorites, but this one is mine. My Dad has always been close to his youngest sister, and subsequently we as a family have always been close to her and her husband- my Uncle Gerry. It wasn’t just this familial connection that made him my favorite, it was his attitude towards life and towards us kids. He would talk to me and my sisters about what we were doing, our hobbies and interests, the boys we liked and the ones who liked us. He would take us for drives in his car and play the first five seconds of Shania Twain’s “Man! I feel like a Woman” over and over and over again to our hearts content. He laughed big, he cooked big, he played big. When they came to our house it was nothing but eating and laughing. Sometimes the laughter wasn’t voluntary as we were tackled into a massive attack of tickles – but they were always the best of times.
When I was twelve years old my Grandma was making the whole extended family take a formal picture together. I had bought a special dress, and applied my recently purchased metallic pink eyeshadow, and I had curled my bangs with a big barreled curler: the recipe for a knock out ensemble. I remember that morning feeling like nothing was coming together like I had imagined. My eyeshadow didn’t make my eyes sparkle like it was supposed to, my curler put a kink in my bangs that ruined the perfectly cylinder effect, and my pale yellow floral dress with a criss-cross back felt too clingy and awkward on my developing body. I had done the best I could with my limited beauty knowledge, and so with a resentful glance, I stalked out onto the porch to wait for the rest of the family. My Uncle Gerry was out there as well, and I’ll never forget the way he looked at me and said, “You look very beautiful” even as I fiddled with the aura of my bangs self-consciously. That family picture still haunts me in my Grandmother’s hallway (an excruciating reminder of those tender preteen years), but that day I felt beautiful; because my Uncle Gerry had said so.
This Christmas has been a rude awakening to the truth of my Aunt and Uncle’s marital relationship. There have been lies, abuse, too much drunkenness, and scores of debt – all thanks to my favorite Uncle. I guess he’s a scoundrel. I probably won’t ever see him again. I can’t justify these things that he has done to my Aunt, because I love my Aunt as well. It is too bad it took her this long to stand up for herself, and it is too bad that even after all this time my Uncle hasn’t figured out how to honestly be the man that we all love and believe him to be. I will miss him; probably because as a kid and his niece, he treated me as he should have treated my Aunt- with respect, affection, love, and a sense of fun. I wish I knew that he’d come around, and all would be well again. I want to know that there will be a day when we can laugh like we always did. Most of all I want to jump in the back of his car, roll down the windows and yell with the confidence and gusto of Shania, “Let’s go girls!” and really believe that everything in life will always be as simple as that joy.
Man! I Feel Like a Woman - Shania Twain