My mother’s brother is my favorite uncle. We will call him “D.” He lives in the South.
When I was three years old or so, D lived with us for a spell, apparently sleeping in our basement. I suppose that his time living with our family brought us closer because I was so young – I didn’t go to school so I was around to play with. However it happened, we created a bond. His nickname for me was “Peanut,” and only he used it, which suited me fine.
D is the kind of uncle that gives love whenever requested. He is still a Hippie in many ways – always wanted to use his creativity to support himself and even as he has gotten more business savvy over the years he never gave up that goal. He set an example of us of following what is in your heart even when the world disagrees. Whenever I needed to know that going up against my parents was okay, he was there to reassure me. “Find your own path,” D would say softly. “It is okay to be your own person.”
D had a first wife who was ill for most of their relationship. This woman was very vocal about me being my own person – I suspect my parents thought it was to my detriment, but I loved her spirit. Were they the perfect couple? No. But I loved his first wife for herself, even if she wasn’t a fabulous partner. A few years ago, they divorced.
After the divorce, D met another woman. We were all hopeful that she would provide the kind of tenderness and support my uncle needs. Unfortunately, it has not turned out that way. Most disturbing is she is an alcoholic. To be very, very clear, I do not judge her on this fact. I even have sympathy for her disease – I have seen enough “Intervention” episodes to know that drug addicts are diseased, not simply lacking in self-control. She has problems and those problems need to be addressed by professionals. Problem is, they aren’t.
In December, I visited my parents with my daughter and Uncle D came up for a few days. My mother prepped me with his supposed determination to end the relationship. Unfortunately, my uncle is no less co-dependent than this woman. While we would like nothing more than for him to toss her out with a few hundred dollars and a shelter bed reserved, he won’t do it, or anything close to asking her to leave no matter how many times he tells my mom he is planning to. He just puts the date off.
When a big dust-up occurred during my mother’s birthday weekend, where D’s girlfriend became severely intoxicated and said insulting things to our family, I communicated with him about the situation. He said that his ex-wife’s family is more his family than we are, since we haven’t lived near each other in 30 years. It was hard to hear, but I understood. Still, it also caused me to move away from him and be less involved.
Now he says he wants out and I know he can’t do it by himself. I worry that he will live with this woman until he dies, never having the peace and love he deserves (from someone else or simply from himself). I help my mother with what to say to him for support, but is that enough? Should I offer my advice or my shoulder to cry on, or stay out of it completely? Do I honor him by asking to be involved or honor him by saying nothing? How can I express my deep, deep love for him if I pretend like nothing is happening, or is that the same thing?