Being an Uncle
Anyone can be an uncle by an accident of birth. Becoming an uncle requires no real effort on your part. But the first time a young life utters the words "thank you, Uncle Karl" (insert your own first name of course) it's like being knighted by the Queen or being appointed to the Canadian senate. I'm not sure if there's an American equivalent other than your aunt marrying a Kennedy.
You instantly know there's a lot to uphold.
When a young child calls you "uncle", it's like an oral contract. It implies you'll always protect him. He puts his little hand in yours when you cross the street. He only understands you're his uncle and you'll never let harm come to him.
Your function in his life is to fill it with wonder, mystery, and adventure. You take him to video arcades. The tough kids leave him alone. You buy him meals at McDonald's. He gets to keep the change.
You're a co-conspirator. You let him get away with things his mom never would. You teach each other swear words. You spend an afternoon shooting the finger at passing bus drivers. You let him get away with a lot and you'll never ever tell mom. A boy will never turn to drugs or dye his hair purple if he knows he can always share a conspiratorial smile with his uncle in front of his mother.
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Copyright 2002 Karl Mamer
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