When I was a little girl in the 50s, my uncle Bill was my favorite uncle. He always remembered my birthday, and he had this Thunderbird convertible that was way-cool, and his friend Bob was a special person. He was my “Uncle Bob.”
As I got older, I’d hear my parents talking about Uncle Bill “having” to move again. That seemed to happen more and more frequently. His friend, Bob, always moved with him. When I asked about why they kept moving, I’d get these vague answers, like there was something more to the story, but I was too young to hear it.
My mom and I would travel to visit my uncles, but my dad would never go with us. My mom loved her brother, and worried for him but I never understood why. Our visits to their homes were fun; they’d show us everything in the different towns in Texas. We’d take the train from Illinois which was a treat.
By the time I was in college, I had a pretty good sense of what was going on. I fell away from my uncles, not for any reason other than I was growing up and on my own. When my husband and I married in 1977, my uncles came to the wedding; besides my parents, they were my only family there.
As I look back on Uncle Bill and Uncle Bob, I remember nothing but love. Both men were caring and giving, and I never understood my dad’s standoffishness toward them.
I realized at some point that they were life partners, and I saw their relationship as stronger than any adult relationship I’d know, including my parents. I can only imagine the obstacles they faced, the judgments that were passed on them, and the turmoil that went along with losing jobs because of their “secret”, and disrupting their lives to go somewhere and do it all over again.
It wasn’t too long after our wedding that I learned that Uncle Bill was sick. By this time, my parents were no longer talking behind my back, and my mom was outraged that Uncle Bob was treated not as a family member, but as a friend. That meant, if I remember correctly, being restricted in visiting, and ultimately not being allowed to make a painful medical decision for his partner of over 50 years who could no longer decide for himself.
After Uncle Bill passed away, I tried to get in contact with Uncle Bob, but once again he had moved away and I never was able to find him.
Today, I regret never having had the chance to tell them I understood. I wish I could have told them how the strength of their love and relationship was a model for me.
I wish that they could be here today to see that they no longer have to hide. No one should have to hide because of who they are.