I have an uncle who I was really close to as a child. He was still in college when I was learning to read. In an act of what I’m sure was pure meanness by his big brother, my dad would take me over to see him on Saturday mornings. I would sit at the foot of his bed and read my book of Knock Knock jokes to him. I can think of NOTHING more torturous to a hung over frat boy than a precocious 5-year-old telling Knock Knock jokes at 7:30 in the morning. As I aged, he forgave the joke telling, and we talked on the phone at least once a week while I was in college about everything from boys to bourbon to careers to family.
We don’t speak now. I doubt I will ever speak to him again. Unless there is a drastic, universal change, he will not know Monkey Boy. It turns out I didn’t really know him. He hurt a lot of people, mostly his children. I make no claim my disappointment or pain is even close to theirs. But since I have the option of whom I let in my life, I chose for him not to be. (I realize this reads as harsh and unforgiving on my part. I don’t intend to justify it; I simply ask you to trust the decision to totally cut him out of my life was thoughtful, measured, and after more than a decade of doing everything I knew to help him help himself.)
Sometimes I have those moments when a song takes me back to a moment in my life. Today, for reasons that pass all understanding, I heard a few bars of The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton. It took me back to a night in college. Baby Daddy and I were visiting my uncle over Christmas vacation. We were up late telling stories, drinking bourbon and listening to music. He was pulling out his old LPs. After we’d listened to Willie Nelson and David Allen Coe (what do you expect, we’re rednecks), he played Johnny Horton. We marched and danced and laughed. We got in trouble for being too loud. It was a great night.
I didn’t know then about the lies that covered the deceit which masked the betrayals. I had no idea just months later his house of cards would crumble. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I will always be sad that things turned out the way they did. I wish it had been different. I would have liked to have had more nights like that one with my uncle. But today, I have healed enough, I can play the song and smile. So that’s something.