On Being an Uncle

It’s nice being an uncle. I have ten nieces and nephews (four beautiful women and six handsome men). I love them so much that if any one of them is pain or sorrow, I feel it deeply, down to my soul. I don’t want to be a father figure to any of them because fathers are responsible for their care and upbringing. Fathers, by their very nature are in turn, stern and brimming with expectations. My experience with a father was to live up to expectations. As an uncle, I am responsible for making them feel safe and to spoil them. I want their love, but on a basis that is more like a friendship.

To see them grow from infancy to adulthood is an experience that is beyond compare. To see these tiny humans blossom into grown ups is a joy. I love them unconditionally and am proud of all of their accomplishments and look at their shortcomings as mere foibles that are part of the process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. I freely offer them advice, even when it’s not asked for and shower them with praise which I feel is their due. Truly I am blessed.

I never had any children of my own. I transfer a lot of my paternal drives into my pets, all cats, but even my most beloved of cats can’t compete with the love and affection that I feel for all the children of my siblings. I always wanted them to feel free to express their emotions without fear of censorship or correction. The duties of an uncle are small, but the rewards of their love are worth more than all the gold and diamonds of the world. I spoke with one nephew today and he told me that my phone call came at a perfect time. My heart leapt with joy at his words.

Now that they are adults, I feel proud to say that they are people that I feel comfortable to confide in them about my own troubles and worries. Without reservation I can say that they are all, for the most part, wise, intelligent and most importantly, people with character and humanity. I thank the Lord that I have such wonderful adults as part of my life. Like so many things, the relationships have come full circle. I can confide in them my own problems and hopefully guide them gently not to repeat the mistakes that I have made in my life. My dearest wish is that they remember me as someone who was kind to them and non-judgemental.

Sadly there is one nephew with whom I am estranged. I hope that one day he will forgive me for whatever transgressions that I committed in his mind. As his uncle, I asked him serious questions about the direction that he was committing his life to. Perhaps in time he will forgive me, but that is not in my hands. Of the others, I can say without reservation that they are people that I would gladly meet halfway on any issue. I am not financially able to support them in any way, but I want them to know that I am there for them as a sounding board. Someone who will listen to their stories without judgement or parental expectations. God bless you Alison, Kevin, Sarah, Aaron, Katelyn, Stroube III, Ronnie, Sonny, Caroline, and Bryan. I love you all without reservation, unconditionally and I accept you each for the unique, brilliant, beautiful people that you have become.

One of the most remarkable things about these young adults is how unique and special each of them are. At the end of February, we will gather as a family to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. I hope that all of them will be able to attend, along with their husbands and wives and significant friends. I embrace you all with tenderness  and devotion. Please know that I love you unconditionally and bless the days when each of you were born. When I see you,  I detect a tiny bit of myself reflected back. Sappy as it might sound, when you are happy, I am filled with joy. When you are unhappy, it hurts me as if you were children of my own.

Being an uncle is a responsibility that I take most seriously. You are the joys of my life. Now some of you are becoming parents, and I love your children with the same unconditional love that I feel for you. Being a great-uncle is great indeed. That you are all close to each other is remarkable and fascinating. You have no idea how much joy you have brought into my life. I would not be as contented in life that I am were it not for each and every one of you. Let me reiterate: God bless you all, the cousins, my parents’ grandchildren.

With enduring love, Uncle Russell


About Russell Smith

I was born at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. I find inspiration in the lives of so many people from Joan of Arc to Oscar Wilde. While my primary avocation is photography, I also enjoy philosophy, theology and most of all, history. My beloved wife, Robin Anne Smith, who passed away in 2013 is also an inspiration to me. My beloved partner, Dana is also a great support and inspiration to me. I'd be remiss if I did not mention my cats: Natasha, Maxwell, Tigger and Nigel.
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2 Responses to On Being an Uncle

  1. Mimi says:

    What a beautiful essay. It made my heart swell. You are a truly wonderful uncle with a wonderful voice. I love you very much, Mimi

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