"Hey Kid!. Kid......psssst...." the man hissed. "Kid..." He was standing in an alley on 35th Street. I half expected him to open his jacket and say "You wanna buy a watch?"
"You don't recognize me, do you?"
I stared at the portly man with the bushy eyebrows."Sorry Sir, I can't say I do."
"I'm your Uncle Abe," he said smiling. "Your Uncle Abe," he repeated."
My mouth dropped open. "But you're dead .In 1966. Liver cancer. How you can be here?"
Uncle Abe smiled sheepishly, "Yeah, well, sometimes we come back to earth. We're rarely recognized," he added. "We try to avoid the friends and relatives." He laughed. "They tend to make too much of a fuss 'ya know."
"We went to Aunt Janet's after the funeral," I said. "She was so upset."
"I know," he said. "I was there." He turned his head and snorted. "And then less than two years later, she married that old man."
"Sam?" I asked.
"Sam." he said, almost spitting out his name. "Sam. And then two years later she died."
"Do you ever see Sam?" I asked.
"Nah," my Uncle said. "We have rules up there. We tend to stay with the people we loved the most." He pushed out his chest and smiled. The smile I had grown to hate. "And we all know who Aunt Janet loved the most." The fat man beamed. "Me. That's who. Me"
"Why are you here?" I asked. "You were hardly my favorite uncle."
"Whaddya mean kid? What did I ever do to you?"
"Well, for example you used to ask me, "'Hey kid...do you know you're ugly?'" I was surprisingly calm. "And also 'Don't you know children should be seen and not heard?'" And my personal favorite, asking at four o'clock in the afternoon, 'Isn't it past your bedtime?"'
"Well, I was just kiddin", he explained. "Just foolin'around."
"You were a bastard," I answered. "A real goddam bastard."
Uncle Abe became angry. "I understand you became a faggot when you grew up. You must have been been taunted and called more names than I ever called you."
Homosexual," I corrected him a"We don't call ourselves faggots...And so you took your sarcasm out on a defenseless five year old boy. You were no stranger. You were my uncle."
"Aw, I was just kiddin with you," my uncle explained. " Remember...when you were six? I once bought you that toy."
"Yeah," I replied. "And that night you broke it."
"I didn't mean nothing by it. It was a accident."
"What do you want?" Now I was becoming agitated.
He sighed. "I want to make amends."
"Why now?" I asked.
"It's Janet," he explained. She's been nagging me for years." For the first time he looked me in the eye. "Look...my twins were thirteen when you came along. Suddenly the spotlight wasn't on them any more." There was a pause. "I guess I kinda resented you."
"....and you decided to be mean to me."
"Yeah kid. I guess I did."
"And make the adults laugh at me." I said bitterly.
"Hey!" he yelled. "Don't flatter yourself. They were laughing at me. My jokes. I was the funny one. Not you. You were my stooge. My patsy.....I made 'em laugh."
There was a long silence.
"So what do you want?"I asked. I had no regard for this man who made my life miserable."
There was a long pause. "I want to say I'm sorry." He stuck out his hand. "I'm really sorry." He forced a smile. "...and when it's your time to come to us, I'm going to be your best buddy. OK?"
This was too much for me to handle. "I don't need your apology. I don't need anything from you."
"Oh yes you do, kid. yes you do. You need it very badly. You must forgive everyone....you must forgive them and love them before you can...can move on.""He looked at the pavement. "Besides," he said, "It would mean a lot to me."
I stared at the man I had hated my entire lifetime.
I believed he was sincere. What could I do?
I accepted his apology.
"I forgive you, Uncle Abe."
The second part was harder. ".... and I love you."
Suddenly a weight was lifted off my shoulders. A weight I had carried for most of my life. All the anger and hurt and rage were gone. And it felt good to be rid of it.
So my Uncle Abe was forgiven.
"I'll see you around kid. Don't take any wooden nickles."
"Please tell Aunt Janet I love her and give her a big kiss for me," I said. "She was always my favorite."
"I know," he said remorsefully. "I know."
In a split second he was gone.
I stood on the street for a few minutes trying to figure out what had just happened. Tears formed in my eyes.
I started to walk toward home.
Imagining Uncle Abe giving Aunt Janet a great big kiss for me.
copyright 2010 Steven Katz