Sometimes I hear his voice in my head, 27 years after he died at an age I knew was too young but didn’t really appreciate.
Because when you are almost 25 and your uncle is almost 50 he still seems pretty old.
I can picture us walking through The Castro listening to him tell me stories about growing up in Chicago and what his older brother, my father, was like.
He sees me staring at men holding hands and asks me if I am uncomfortable and I say I am not.
The two men kissing each other at a table near ours is a little awkward, but I’d feel the same about any couple.
“If I am not of the people involved I don”t need to be close enough to participate.”
I can still hear him laugh. I’ll go back and forth between LA and San Francisco a bunch of times before he dies, might be a half dozen or more, the real number is blurred by time.
There are other stories I could tell about my two gay uncles and experiences I had with them, but not today.
Somewhere in San Francisco we stand in one of those Victorian homes. I am drinking a beer and talking to some of the people there when one of the women grabs me by the arm and asks “do you want to know me now?”
She isn’t bad looking but she has a chunk of years on me and I am not quite sure what to say.
“Your uncle sent me over. He thought that guy you were talking to was getting too friendly.”
Can’t remember her name because it was a little loud and my uncle decided it was time to leave.
Makes me smile because I appreciate his looking out for me. I wasn’t uncomfortable but it was nice that he paid attention.
“Did I screw something up for you?”
He laughs and says something about the other guy being able to find him.Today I hear it is a non answer but who knows if my memory is accurate.
Some things stick with me and I am certain about those moments and others, well, I don’t know.
A different memory demands my attention. Dad is talking to me about women and I disagree with something he says.
We’ll go back and forth about a few things and disagree on others.
He’ll tell me that whatever experience I think I have doesn’t account for as much as I might think.
“You’ll reach a place where there aren’t little kids running around the house and you won’t be worried about soccer, baseball or homework. Your relationships will change. You need to take that into account.
And remember, you won’t be the same and neither will she.”
“Dad, I am not married or even serious with anyone.”
“If you get stupid and don’t pay attention you might find yourself in a situation you’d rather not be in.”
That makes me snort.
“You only heard one part of the conversation, probably not something you wanted to hear either.”
I can see him standing in the living room of my apartment and hear him tell me the next time I want to talk like that I should have the door closed.
“Dad, the only person that could have heard it was you and that is because you walked in. I didn’t know you were coming by. And I can tell you, it is probably not what you think.”
“I don’t want or need to know anything else. Listen to me and think with your brain.”
Don’t think we ever touched upon that again, but I did try once because it wasn’t quite what he thought it was.
But the past was the past to Dad and there wasn’t any interest in reviewing the moment.
Twenty-seven years ago there were five of us Wilner men and I was the youngest.
Now there are only two and the younger wasn’t even a thought back then and that is ok. I wasn’t ready to be a dad and couldn’t have pictured life as it is now.
Who knew that I’d take any interest in genealogy or that in the 21st century I’d have a 96 year-old cousin whose father was born during the 19th.
Maybe shetl life isn’t as far away as I like to think it is.
Funny to think that my oldest nephew is 21 now and about how I started doing that drive between LA and San Francisco when I was younger than him
I never believed that time would move as fast as it did between then and now but then again there are a dozen things I never believed I would do or have happen to me.
Damn if life isn’t what happens when you think nothing is going on.