August 18, 2022

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But no matter how hard I prayed to God or how many letters I wrote...

But no matter how hard I prayed to God or how many letters I wrote to Santa at Christmas, my father never appeared. Uncle Ronnie, however, always did. He had golden brown skin, and though his marathon runner’s body rendered him smaller than most of the men I was related to, he was strong. He was innately kind but could read you for filth with just a look, and, like me, he loved to laugh.
Not only did he attend school plays, piano recitals, basketball games, track meets, even church once or twice, but he was also the one who would drive me to and from those events. Whenever I copped an attitude, he knew how to put a smile on my face. He would scoop me up and take me to museums or the playground or the flea market, teaching me how to pick out quality art and furniture pieces.
He would take me to bougie restaurants in Manhattan so that I’d be exposed to different cuisines and fine dining; he’d take me to McDonald’s because he knew, ultimately, that it was my favorite. And if those things didn’t have me beaming, he resorted to my most hated tactic: becoming an insatiable tickle monster, stopping only when there were tears of laughter streaming down my face.
He was also the only person that never questioned my effeminate nature. Others would demand that I “man up” and not be so “girly” in my demeanor or interests. Uncle Ronnie, however, owned a hair salon and was the only man I knew who used words like “fabulous” and “honey.” He never tried to stomp out my innate softness; instead, he quietly nurtured it. He encouraged it by laughing at my impressions of Cher. He protected it by giving me my first summer job as a receptionist at the salon. He honored it by having my signed Destiny’s Child poster framed, saying that they were to me what the Supremes had been to him.
Shortly after I graduated from college at 21, my mother and Uncle Ronnie had a big falling out. I won’t share the private details of their discord, but I can tell you my mother came to me and plainly told me what happened. Uncle Ronnie did the same. Both had a different experience of the situation, and my Uncle Ronnie in particular expressed being hurt.
I had never known them to disagree on anything, let alone have a fight, so I wasn’t used to being in the middle. But based on my understanding of parental fights from those ’90s TV shows, the child always picks a side. Since Uncle Ronnie was my godfather and not my biological father, my choice was clear: Blood is thicker than water. I chose my mother and stopped reaching out to my godfather.

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