Thursday, December 19, 2013

Say Uncle!

In my family, you must say "Uncle!" to be released from the unrelenting grip of the Tickle Monster. The notorious Claw will not back off until its prey begs out a defeated wail of "Uncle!" Any other utterance only fans the fury of these beasts.

To "cry uncle" means to admit defeat, to surrender, to beg for mercy. The saying's origin may be the from the Roman Empire when bullied children were forced to say "Patrue, mi Patruissimo" (Uncle, my best Uncle) in order to be freed from the bully's wrath. Reasons being that crying uncle is a way of proving another's helplessness by forcing them to call out for an adult's help.

My sons are blessed with several uncles none of which are bullies but many of whom are Master Ticklers and were known to administer Claw-like torture techniques when the boys were younger. In the face of such torment, my littler boys would sustain peals of laughter until the last moment when they could barely eek out an "Uncle!" just in time to catch their breath. They have long outgrown tickling and any true fear of the Claw, but their uncles can still make them laugh like no one else.

I imagine, for a boy, having an uncle is a special thing. It's a relationship ripe with a potentially balanced mix of big brother, friend and father. Just far enough removed from the authoritative, fatherly role to not be so, well, parental. Far enough removed to be fun, cool and wise all at the same time. An uncle's jokes rarely elicit eye rolls, at least not as often as a parent's jokes will. An uncle's advice might be more welcome than a parent's words of wisdom. Have you ever heard a kid say "Uuuuncle!" with the same annoyed inflection as they say "Daaaad!" It doesn't happen.

Several years ago, one of the uncles was visiting and I asked for a portrait of him with his nephews. The boys climbed the fence and huddled around their Patruissimo and the moment was captured. Confident and loving.

October 2010

I love this picture so much that I envisioned a wall of patrues posed with their nepos. My vision was not just pictures of the boys with their uncles but the boys in the same spot, same pose with their various uncles. It took a few years to get each uncle here and posed by the fence but it happened.

A short bit of time later another Patruissimo came to visit. Another captured moment of avunucular love. Caring and playful. 

April 2011
Later still, a third Patruissimo came to visit and the fencepost was the stage for another pose. Another special time with a special uncle captured. Dependable and fun.

May 2013
While the miles and the business of life do not allow for these relationships to have much face to face time, the boys are still able to connect with their uncles. We try to visit as often as life allows. And in between they are sustaining their relationships with their uncles through technology, texting and the shared love of silly YouTube videos. Deep, meaningful male bonding at its adolescent best.

I have these portraits framed and housed on a shelf side by side. My three brothers. The boys' three uncles. While my boys have changed, the uncles are a constant.

The pictures stand as reminders that while their current connections are at times pubescent and silly, those connections are building the foundations of deeper, longstanding relationships for their futures.

The uncles are cool. And my boys know they have at least three other men who have their backs. All they have to do is say, "Uncle!"

1 comment:

  1. So sweet! They are blessed with fun uncles, that's for sure!


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