Near the end of his life Uncle Joe went to live with my father. He was losing bodily functions. I knew he couldn’t handle staying in my house with all the noise of six children, but I offered and I would have taken him in without malice. He really believed that at the end of his life he would finally find the love in my father’s heart. The most horrendous quote that I’ve heard to date came from that period in my life:
“You know what that crazy Son of a B**** said to me today? He asked me to sit in the bedroom and talk to him like Ma used to do. I told him ‘I’m not my f***ing mother.’ Then he asked me if I would just sit and hold his hand like you used to do. I told him: ‘I’m not my f***ing mother and I’m not my f***ing daughter. If you want company you find a way to get your ass in that wheelchair and you come into the living room and sit with everyone else. If not you can sit in here alone then.”
I was mortified. I couldn’t and wouldn’t talk to a stranger on the street in that manner. I didn’t understand how my own father, my flesh and blood, could talk to his dying brother like that. I couldn’t believe he would brag about it, as if he made a valid statement. In disbelief, all I could squeak out of my unbelieving mind was: “Dad, I really worry about your soul.”
Uncle Joe was monitored while at my father’s house. H wasn’t allowed phone calls that weren’t listened to via extension. He wasn’t allowed to make calls. My father and his wife had to control every move. When Uncle Joe wanted something religious in his room, my dear sweet step mother commented: “We don’t keep any of that s*** in our house.”
Everything my uncle owned was supposed to go to my father’s children, his blood children, and my father’s grandchildren, his blood grandchildren, but when cousins brought my father the list of wishes, Dad crumpled them up and said: “Too bad. It’s mine.”
I can’t help but wonder how different my uncle’s life would have been if he had been given freedom as a homosexual American. I can’t help but wonder if he would have had deeper family relationships if he was simply respected as a person. Family values? Where are the family values in the heterosexual acts of my father? What are family values when they are based on condemnation and prejudice? What is value when one can’t simply be who they are, because of the judgment and fear of those who can’t understand? Family value, in truth, would be acceptance. A family can’t have value unless every player in the game has their own personal value, above and beyond the choices of everyone else. If every member of a family doesn’t possess value and isn’t respected, the family value falls short. Family value built on lies and hidden hearts is solely built on pretense.