Love Is Love
"We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that/hope and love last longer/And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be/killed or swept aside..." Lin-Manuel Miranda
Growing up, I looked forward to hearing from my uncle, my mother's older brother, every holiday. On Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter, I would twist the rotary phone cord around my fingers as my Uncle "Butch," known to most as Chuck or Charles, would check in on my sisters and me. We didn't actually see Uncle Butch much as kids, nor do we see him a lot now; however, if anyone asks if we are close to my uncle, the answer is, "Of course!" And it's because love has nothing to do with how often we see each other.
I take great pride in having already taught my daughter, Zoe, about death. It happened by accident, but I will say, it was a happy accident. Who knew my, at the time, 3-year-old would be so enthralled by the Netflix original film, The Little Prince? The classic French tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is nestled inside a modern-day story of a little girl whose mother's type-A multitasking is robbing her daughter of the messy, amazing, and necessary trials of childhood. Of course, at the end of this --in my opinion-- brilliant remake, both protagonists, the original character of the Aviator and the new character of the little girl, must grapple with death. Both characters realize that a dead loved one's body "...will be like an abandoned shell. [And] there is nothing sad about an old shell." Both protagonists realize that love does not depend on physical bodies.
In quiet moments of play, unsolicited, Zoe often reiterates her understanding of the themes in The Little Prince. She says, "Even when I can't see you, I still love you."
To be clear, my Uncle Butch is alive and well. He and his husband Paul live in New Hampshire. They have lived far from New Jersey my whole life, and while my husband, Michael, and I did visit them for a fabulous week of dining, sight-seeing, laughing, and relaxing during the summer of 2013, we don't see them often. Regardless, my uncles, Butch and Paul, have supported and loved me since the day I was born.
Throughout my life, Uncle Butch has given me several heartfelt and significant gifts. For our wedding, he gave me and Michael a vase from Tunisia, his French-speaking mother's, my Mamina's, birth country. Yesterday, I received a thin golden band and a letter explaining that the band had belonged to generations of my family members. He meant this band to show me that regardless of whether they are alive or dead, generations of my family are loving and supporting me.
I have never met my mother's and my Uncle Butch's mom. She died of colon cancer in her early 40s. We would have called her Mamina. My children call my mom, Mamina. I'm certain my Mamina is loving me still.
Speaking of never having met someone who loves me, my Uncle Butch's best friend Michael, has also showered me and my family with love for many years. Michael has prayed for me and my Michael through a brain tumor, childbirths, and now cancer. He sends cards and many thoughtful, generous gifts. His gifts always look professionally wrapped, and are as beautiful in meaning as they are in appearance.
Over the past week, I have been thinking a lot about how to teach Zoe and Emerson about this world and its complicated realities. Luckily, passed on from generations before them, my mother, uncles, and their friends have engrained in me that, "...love is love is love is love..." and that love transcends orientation, gender, race, skin color, distance, and death.
Thank you Charles Motta, Paul Hynes, Michael Bogdanowicz, my Mamina, and my children's Mamina for proving "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."