I read about a phenomenal man who was attributed to having the greatest influence over classical music in the latter part of the twentieth century. He had been an agent, an artistic director to orchestras, conductors, musicians and high profile performance artists such as Marcel Marceau. The man was accoladed for his talents, his generosity, his business and musical genius. He'd even married a president's granddaughter.
I felt sad because I had never met the man nor would I ever, even though he was my uncle. The glowing New York Times article was his obituary.
Real uncles are the guys who play Monopoly or Aggravation with the kids at Thanksgiving. They're the guys who throw you in the pool or take everyone out for ice cream or have the talent to do the missing finger trick. They organize the soccer game and always pass the ball to the underdog even when they have an open shot. We have images of them in military uniform, memories of gifts brought from distant lands, family legends of bravery. Real uncles are loved, accepted and laughed at.
What would this uncle have been like had he been given the chance? And that is where the tragedy began; he never had a chance.
He'd entered the family on rocky ground and my aunt's brothers weren't going to let him get away with it. Hot heads and fists prevailed; my aunt was left with a marriage certificate no stronger than the paper it was printed on, and a newborn baby-- a baby who would become my favorite cousin, the child of the phenomenal man who I am sure would have been my phenomenal uncle.
I try to play with the past, try to imagine if only... If only the family had known what he would have become. In this idea I see a kernel of acceptance and compassion; I see a path to success in relationships, to successful lives. Everyone is yet to become. Everyone makes mistakes and those mistakes will in part determine what we become. But if we are held back, defined by those mistakes, never forgiven of our faults---Imagine a man trying to emerge from beneath a manhole cover on a busy New York City street. Every time he tries to lift the manhole, another tire shuts it down. His finger gets pinched, his head is cut; he falls back into the pit and eventually gives up, moves away, withdraws, screams "Uncle!"
We never know what he could have become. Or we miss out on what he did become and what we could have become with his association. Or worse, he never becomes.