One of my earliest memories is dancing for my Uncle. I took dance from the age of about five and my mother would often stop by my Uncle’s house before going home. I remember one day I was all dressed in my ballerina outfit-- pink tutu, those slip-on beige leather ballerina slippers, light pink tights with a snag in the knee from my clumsy self and pink leotard. When I arrived at his doorstep, the door opened wide and a big man as tall as I could see and as wide as the door with red cheeks, a smile as a wide as a river, stretched out his arms and belted out “Dance for me! Dance for me my little ballerina”. His endearing boastful voice filled my heart, his eyes glittering like blue sea glass. I giggled and bowed holding my tutu with my two delicate girl hands and twirled around and around until his belly rumbled with laughter. He embraced me in a bear hug and picked me up, wrapping his burly arms around my small, fragile body, kissing my soft cheeks. I looked to my uncle as someone who was so full of joy, who always embraced me with love, who was excited to see me and saw the great joy I held inside. Unfortunately, my uncle was deeply depressed, an alcoholic, and an addict. Much of this was all undercover and came to be more known when he committed suicide about five years later, when I was ten years old. There were a lot of secrets in my family and throughout my life, a distinct trait of families where alcoholism pervades. My mother tried to protect me much of my life and my uncle’s suicide was one of the ways she tried to control and protect me. I wasn’t allowed to attend his funeral services because she considered me too young to deal with death, yet one day at school shortly after my uncle committed suicide, one of my classmates was laughing and telling a group of his friends about how some idiot dressed up in a clown suit and hung himself in his backyard. The gruesome details of my uncle’s suicide were shared openly and no one knew it was my uncle. I sank in my seat, my palms sweaty with heat rising in my face. I wavered between wanting to get up to punch the kid and crawling under my desk to cry, grieving the man in my life who brought so much joy to me, who filled my heart with so much love. Mortified, I just sat there in disbelief. Not knowing what to do, as I wasn’t even given the chance to grieve, to talk about why he had committed suicide, what had drove him to that very day where he became so deep in his depression and self-hate that he decided to end it all. This was my first experience with love and loss. An experience I didn’t realize would live with me every day of my life thereafter. As a child, you experience pure love. The kind of love that doesn’t come with expectations. Doesn’t come with strings attached. It’s just there. A love whereby warmth ripples throughout your body to every corner, to every empty space, to every shadow lighting up your heart and soul. My uncle gave me that pure love and in return, I gave it back. I always felt that my uncle Frank has been with me throughout my life. Reminding me to be the little bright ballerina that I was once as a child. Reminding me of the love that I hold in myself. The love I am capable and deserving of receiving. A reminder that even in our darkest hour, we have the choice to choose love or fear. While this lesson was not apparent at the time, looking back at all the ways in which love and fear have shown up in my life, in the life of my family members and friends, I have witnessed how the self has been distracted, tested, challenged yet it still rises. It is still there. It is always there. It is eternal. The chorus of love rings so loud but the little whisper of fear can deafen all the choruses of love in your life.
-An excerpt from my book, A Return to Home.