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June 17th, 2006

Synchronicity in Coventry...

At 9:45, the intercom system came on in my room for my "wake up call." I'd forgotten about the entirely wired house, including speakers out on the sitting area behind the house facing the lake. Seems like no big deal today, but it was put in in the 70s.

My Uncle Cliff, and his daughter, my cousin Theresa, were supposed to be arriving around 10:00. I hadn't seen Theresa and Cliff for 30 or 35 years.

When I finished showering and went upstairs, I found not Uncle Cliff or Theresa, but Uncle Frank's son (from a previous marriage) Frank. He had dropped by unexpectedly, and I only found out late in the evening before going to bed that he and Uncle Frank had had a disagreement last year, and hadn't spoken to each other since.

Introductions were made, and Aunt Annette fixed me coffee, juice, and some cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast, which was perfect.

We had a laugh when Aunt Annette told me that Frank had asked how old I was and when they said 48, he'd said, "Oh that's close to my age, 54."

I said to him, "Oh no. 48 is not close to 54. Now 48 is close to 44, but not to 54.



By 11:00, Uncle Cliff and Theresa still hadn't arrived, so I started a 30-minute walk around the circle that is Breezy Lake Drive, which was so pleasant that I ended up doing an hour walk, continuing around each time when I got back to their house with no new car in the driveway.

At the end of my walk, just after noon, I walked to the back of the back yard, and lay down on the wall along the lake, enjoying the cool breeze off Breezy Lake.

Aunt Annette walked out to me, but I didn't hear her as I had my iPod earbuds in. When she finally got my attention, I sat up, and helped her bring chairs down by the lake, where me, her, Uncle Frank, and his son Frank sat for a little while chatting, and enjoying the view and weather.

At one point Frank mentioned that his son was an R.N., and currently working in Australia. Shortly after that Uncle Frank and Aunt Annette had gone inside, and I went in to refill my drink. I went to them inside, and said, "Is Frank's son's gay?"

They looked at me kind of oddly, like "Why are you asking?" and I said, "Well, Frank just mentioned to me that he is an R.N."

They said, "Well, we don't know that for sure, but we suspect it."

I said, "Well, I know there are straight male nurses, but most of them are gay, at least the ones I know."



I went back outside, and still alone with Frank, I said, "So, how long has your son been in Australia?"

And he said, "Well, he's been down there x number of months." I can't even remember how many months he said, because he followed the sentence immediately with, "He's gay, too."

"Oh?" I said.

"Yeah. I've never mentioned it to dad and my step-mom before, because I don't feel like it's my place to tell them. I think Clyde should tell them himself, if and when he wants to or feels comfortable to."

I said, "Well, I hope you will tell your son that he has no reason to fear telling them. They have done nothing but open their hearts to me. Their love is unconditional."

He nodded, and I added, "Thank you for sharing that with me."



Later in the day, when I discussed the conversation with Uncle Frank and Aunt Annette, they told me that they have been telling Frank over the years what a great son I was to my parents, all the things I've done for them, places I've taken them, how bright and articulate I was, and successful, and so on.

So, since he'd arrived unexpectedly today, he didn't know I was here, and before I went upstairs this morning, Uncle Frank and Aunt Annette were telling him, "You know, Johnny, the one we've talked about over the years, he's here, downstairs. He'll be up shortly. Yes, he's a great kid, and he's gay, you know."

They said they watched his expression as they said it to see his reaction. Then Aunt Annette said something like, "You know, he's a great kid, and it really doesn't matter at all to us."

And Uncle Frank chimed in, in an attempt to let him know that he, too, was fine with it. "To each his own, you know, Frankie. His parents are lucky to have him as their son."

This, no doubt, contributed to Frank's later feeling comfortable enough to say that to me, and Uncle Frank was just amazed that his son opened up to me out by the lake, and said something to me he's not been able to say to his own father all these years.

I said, "Well, in all fairness, he didn't say he was afraid to tell you. He said he didn't think it was his place to tell you; that he thought it was his son's place to tell you when he was ready or comfortable with it. And, actually, I admire him for that, and that's why I told him that I hoped he'd now let his son know that his grandparents would be totally fine with it if he told them."

I do hope the grandson does get the word, and does it soon.  I feel a little guilty for telling them, but it is so excruciating and frustrating how everyone dances around the elephant in the room.



At about 12:30 or 1:00, Uncle Cliff and Theresa (I need to find out if she spells her name Teresa or Theresa) finally arrived, and we had the most delicious lunch, some baked fish, which Aunt Annette fixed from an old Portuguese recipe of Frank's mother. It was so good.

After that, we had another full day of sharing family stories -- both heart-wrenching and heart-warming ones.

At one point in the afternoon, Uncle Cliff was detailing the final days of his wife's life, with his wife being my Aunt Rita, and my Aunt Annette's (and my mother's) older sister.

Aunt Annette got a little overwhelmed as he said that the doctors had told her that if she wouldn't let them try to do something to stop it, the tumors were going to grow up her throat, and she was essentially going to choke and suffocate to death.

Aunt Annette left the room for a bit, and Theresa went to comfort her. Tears in all the men's eyes left in the room.



A lot later in the evening, Aunt Annette revealed, to both Theresa's and my shock, that Memere's real name wasn't Blanche. It's Jennette.

Theresa said, "I'm sure my mother never knew that," and I said, "And I'm pretty sure my mom doesn't know that either."



Synchronicity.

Looking back at this weekend and all of the coincidences that came together to make it what it turned out to be is a little bit amazing.

First, that this wasn't the weekend that I originally thought about coming up here, but after finding out that Irene and Susan would be in Boston for Maria's 75th, I settled on it.

Second, that a couple of days before I arrived, Uncle Cliff and Theresa had called to ask if it was okay to come up for a visit.

Third, that after a year of not speaking to his dad, Uncle Frank's son, shows up this weekend, the day before Father's Day, when a gay relative is visiting unexpectedly.

And then, once here, to learn about a cousin I never knew I had, and to become a communication catalyst about a family matter that's never been discussed.



Once again, I go to bed feeling warm in my heart, a lot of love for these people around me, and profoundly thankful for taking a trip that has turned into three amazing days.

Amen.

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