It’s complicated. This family. This photo taken during the first family reunion, a celebration of Dad’s birthday. One of the very rare times most of his children were in the same room together. His son Gary is missing, having died from complications due to AIDS decades before.
And now Junior, the one in the very center of the photo, has passed due to COVID. I hadn’t spoken with Junior since Dad’s funeral 13 years ago this past Sunday. Of everyone pictured here, he was the least complicated for me personally.
With him being the second oldest and my being the youngest, we did not grow up together. He would visit from time to time but not often. As adults, we had dinner together once when he was traveling through Portland. He was kind, thoughtful, and seeking a connection. It was a heartfelt experience that I’ve never forgotten.
Had we not been from very different worlds, he a retired military chaplain serving as a minister in a church in Texas and me being who I am, we may have even built a friendship. As it was, we were on easy enough terms with each other, albeit from a very large distance.
Watching Junior’s service online today reminds me of how deep the wounds of being a part of my father’s family cut. During the service, my nephew spoke these words about his father: “As a young man he didn’t know much about fatherly love. Or even motherly love. He didn’t feel loved by his dad and rarely by his mom. His mother rarely told him that she loved him. He said he felt like an illegitimate child. And there was a time that his dad disowned him. I could say more about such things but trust me my dad had, to be frank, a terrible father and a cold and distant mother.”
Yes, we most certainly did. And yet, Junior managed to find a way to move through the world from a place of deep devotion and love in the world. I am truly sorry he is gone.