I have no doubt my parents love me unconditionally. I know no matter what I do, they will always love me. God knows I’ve tested that theory enough! Although I knew this for years, for some reason I remembered the realization last night.
I also know my mom loves her brother very much. They are pretty close; they talk a lot. I know she never disowned my uncle. Unlike my grandpa, she accepted him right away. She struggled with the knowledge, but she never refused to talk to him. She is more than capable of looking past a moral or political disagreement and loving someone.
My grandpa reconciling with my uncle shows he is also capable of looking past moral or political disagreements and loving someone. In fact, even though it took him a few years to make peace, he showed the most love! He came from the strictest background of any of us. He was a farm boy in the rural Midwest in the 1920s. Do you remember my view of religion? I tend to see all the paths to damnation. He grew up in the hellfire and brimstone era of protestant religion in this region. He probably views the world with more fear than I do!!! He came from a very tightknit, extremely religious family. Furthermore, he grew up in an intolerant time period. Yet, he overcame all this, he wrestled with beliefs he honestly held as part of his personal hope of eternal salvation for at least half a century, and he accepted my uncle. His actions were not out of spite! I believe even while he shunned my uncle, he loved him dearly. I believe my grandpa tried to help my uncle! He used to believe homosexuality is a sin and if a person is not remorseful for their sins, they will be tortured for all time in the afterlife. Therefore, I think he shunned my uncle to try to coerce my uncle into stopping all homosexual behavior. I do not think it was out of anger. I think it was out of love and extreme fear. He believes sexuality is a choice. We may be attracted to one gender or both, but we can choose to focus our attraction toward the opposite gender. Since he believes my uncle has a choice and he believes choosing homosexuality would damn my uncle for eternity, my grandpa refused to talk to him for years, in an effort to encourage him to make the choice my grandpa thought meant everlasting bliss in the afterlife. In time, Grandpa realized my uncle would not change his behavior, even if Grandpa refused to acknowledge him for the rest of his life. Realizing this, I think he decided to salvage his relationship with his son on Earth, despite believing his actions would damn him in the afterlife. In a way, he overcame the most and displayed the deepest love because he had to look past or alter beliefs he held for over 50 years!
All these thoughts came after seeing this picture on Humans of New York:
“At this time in my life, there’s nothing I really value more than interaction with my children, and they’ve just grown so busy that there’s not much of it. All I can really do is trust that they care, even if they don’t communicate it, and reflect on all the times that I didn’t reply to my mother when she sent me things.”
The picture caption made me sad because I know my mom and grandparents all feel this way. As my grandparents approach their 90s, the feeling becomes stronger because they know the time they have left to spend with their children and grandchildren is dwindling. I feel guilty for not spending more of my free time with them either going out for a bite to eat or just calling for a quick chat. Sometimes I’m even mad at my brother for not calling them more because I know it hurts them and they feel unimportant or unloved, like out of sight, out of mind. I also worry in a few years, my brother will regret not picking up the phone once a month. They call him, but they often do not get a response and interpret that as either their calls are unwanted or bothersome. Therefore, they no longer leave messages; instead they wait for a call that never comes.
However, then I realized part of the problem may be he too is hiding a large part of himself from them. While it might be easy to chat about work or the weather, maybe it is painful or awkward to censor himself all the time. Perhaps that is part of why he does not return calls or call on his own. Vulnerability leads to stronger, deeper bonds. He is too afraid to let any of them see the real him, preventing a better relationship.
Although I feel much closer to all three because I live in town, I am guilty of the same thing. I realized we are not giving them the chance to love us for us. They have already proven they can do it with my uncle! It may be painful at first, but in the end, I believe it is best if all of us come out. We have to trust the people who love us and raised us to love us, even when we don’t fit the dreams they had for us. If we don’t trust them, but we underestimated them, we are robbing them and ourselves of truer, more open, real, trusting, close relationships.