My great Uncle Al passed away a few weeks ago. I don’t have a lot of childhood memories of Uncle Al—primarily due to the fact that most of my childhood memories are sort of a haze courtesy of some neurological malfunction—but I do have a number of memories of Uncle Al in more recent years. Most of them involve a glass of wine (or two) and some of the best political or religious conversations I’ve ever had with someone his age.
Uncle Al was an anomaly in our family. A twinkle-eyed, grey-haired, questioner of everything. He didn’t take anything or anyone at face value. He was warm, genuine, and true to his word.
I didn’t know him as well as some—maybe even most—but I do know that he supported me and Catch and the life we have together.
Uncle Al’s memorial service was on Saturday in a small funeral home with inadequate air conditioning. The service was lead by my mother’s cousin’s husband—a Baptist minister who I have never met in my adult years.
As introductions were made before the service, I was introduced to Reverend Roger and Catch was introduced as my wife.
It has been years since anyone has made me feel as uncomfortable as he did on Saturday. The shift of his eyes—the drop of his jaw—the turn of his head—blatantly ignoring us. Never acknowledging the introduction.
Not a single member of that family spoke to us on Saturday. We’d driven hundreds of miles to be at the services, and we were ignored and made to feel uncomfortable by all of them.
I’ve felt a lot of things in the days following. Shame for not being “acceptable.” Betrayal—because we are family, after all. The hurt that comes with heckling no matter how hard you try to rise above it.
Really, though—the feeling that I am trying desperately to hold onto is sympathy. I feel sorry for them. I am sorry that they are not adult enough to look someone in the eye, shake hands and say, “Thanks for coming.” I am sorry that they have closed their minds and hearts to people who are not like them, because there is so much we can learn from each other. I am sorry that they have chosen to make their world so small.
As we left to drive home on Saturday, my mom put her arm around my shoulders and said, “We never have to see them again.”
I’m sorry they’re missing out on us.