Fifteen years ago my uncle died. He was my father's younger and only brother. He was 49. At the time I knew that was young, but it didn't strike me as to how very young it was. It is really now that I am about to crest the hill and turn 40 that I see it as being half a life, but is related to this somewhat tangentially.
His death marked a turning point in my relationship and understanding of my father. I see it a bit as a benchmark for when I began to truly recognize that my father was just a man and subject to the same laws and science as all men are.
It was the first time that I really saw him in a light where he wasn't our shining knight, protector of the family. I stood back and watched as he and my grandfather hugged each other. I watched as a father and son coped with their loss and tried to make sense of it. That was really when I understood that though he was my father, there was much more to him.
And now I find myself in a different sort of position than I did back then. Now I am more than a son and a brother, but a father as well. Now I understand the responsibility of caring for a family and trying to be the rock, even when it feels like the world around you is collapsing.
A short while ago I received a telephone call from my mother and let her fill me in on my father's latest medical procedure. It was a good call. His health is ok, pooey, pooey, but it is not what you would call stellar. The man has a lot of medical challenges. There are some serious issues there and I find myself worrying about him.
Is it fair to call him a sick parent. I don't know that I can say that because his health is certainly better than others I know. But, it is a precarious thing as there are any number of things that could send it in the wrong direction.
Most of the time it is not a conscious worry. To the best of our knowledge there is no reason to think that we are going to suddenly lose him, but then again it is not impossible either. Given the things that have happened, that history makes it hard not to be concerned.
I haven't got any brothers, plenty of brother-in-laws, but no brothers. So if heaven forbid something happens to him I am the last male connection to certain things.
Don't misunderstand me, I am not trying to buy sorrow early. But it is a bit surreal. I didn't expect to really worry about my parents until they were somewhere in their eighties or nineties. Maybe that is ridiculous, maybe it is naive, but it was what I expected.
Instead I find myself sandwiched in this place where I worry about them and my family. So here I sit sharing these thoughts with whomever reads them. Here I sit thinking about how many of my friends have already lost a parent, many of them at a very young age. Here I sit with gratitude for everything, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling nervous from time to time.
It is a screwy world, but it is the only we have got so I suppose we'll just have to make do. In the meantime I'll share one more thought with you and that is this.
I wonder when my own children will go through this process. I wonder when I'll cease being superman and become Clark Kent, just another ordinary Joe. I don't really mind that all, I just hope that it doesn't happen until they become adults. It would be nice to keep this going for a bit longer.