Dad married his childhood sweetheart and had three children. He also divorced, remarried, and adopted his wife’s three children, because she demanded it (or so he said.) In doing so, he also caved in to her wishes when she told him he had to make a choice between his blood three children and her. He did choose her (according to what she said.)
Uncle Joe never would abandon anyone he loved. He was always there to lend advice, a hug, or an ear. He wasn’t judgmental. He would never allow himself to be in a position to sell out his family. He was loyal. He didn’t have a wife. He didn’t have kids. Uncle Joe was a homosexual.
Through the years, I watched Uncle Joe suffer. I watched my father pass judgment on my uncle, time after time. I listened to my father bash my uncle and he expected the rest of us to follow his lead. I wasn’t born to be a follower. I knew right from wrong. I, too, had learned family values and the meaning of family. I learned it in a different vein than my father. I learned the meaning of family values by watching, listening, and feeling, the values Dad lacked.
Uncle Joe couldn’t come out of the closet. The shame was impossible for him. In his mind, he let down his God, his family, and my father. All he wanted was love and acceptance. His homosexuality was hidden from my grandparents, though I’m sure they thought something was different about him. They would have prayed about it. They would have prayed for forgiveness, as they did for my father.
Uncle Joe fell to mental illness. His diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia. Still, I was very close to him. I couldn’t turn on him because of homosexuality or mental illness. He was Uncle Joe. He didn’t always look the greatest. He didn’t always act the norm, but I couldn’t stop loving him. I couldn’t degrade him. I couldn’t pass judgment or blame him. It wasn’t my job. My job was to love him. He was still one of the most loving and influential people in my life. He had great words of wisdom.
Yes, I was ridiculed and degraded for staying close to him and not adapting to my father’s way of thinking. I was told I was just as crazy as he was. I was put down as if his acts were mine. That was a cross I would bear again today. I was proud to stay by the side of a failing person. I was proud of who Uncle Joe helped create me to be. There was no way I could abandon him in ill health. There was no way I would abandon any human being because of homosexuality.