I was accorded several real uncles, who appeared automatically in my life the day I was born. But like most of the kids in my Long Island neighborhood in the 1950s, I was also entitled to other "uncles," not related to our family but connected in a way that was just as real.
Depending on the kind of soul you have, it's either a digital countdown or an hourglass we carry around inside ourselves, doing the dishes or sitting on the couch in the next room as a reward for making dinner in the first place.
Last year, my fiancé's sister, Julie, gave birth to a beautiful red-headed girl named Mira Celeste, and it was then I found myself taking on the role of uncle. And with that new role came a slew of fears I wasn't ready for.
It starts something like this: You go to a relative's house for the holidays. Soon, the adults start to drink a little, lose their inhibitions and start to regress to their younger selves. You start to tell old stories. Oh no, you have forgotten that your teenage children are in the room.
As my nieces and nephews become teenagers, they seem busy with their own lives. I don't know what to do to get closer, other than friending them on Facebook. Do you think having relationships with their aunts and uncles matters to kids?
This was the story my mother knew, only from hearing it told as she drifted to sleep. She did not know her brother's name. She did not know where he lived those few days, and which days they were. Or where he was buried, if he was.