published: February 2017

Aging as an art

by Ammi Kohn

Uncle Omelet

Do you have a favorite uncle(s) or aunt(s)?   

I especially loved and was loved by my Uncle Louie when I was very young.  He taught me chess during the time when he was confined to his room with trigeminal nerve problems.  In my memory he talked to me as a person, not as a small boy or from the perspective of a parent.  When I visited Boston from Utica, New York (and travelled by myself at 9 with the help of Traveler’s Aid, a trip which would not happen today), he would watch me from the window as I played and then discuss with me what I did when I come up to his room to visit.

How so very different from life with my parents when I realize now, as children do not realize, the roles that parents assume when they raise their children.  Uncles and aunts don’t have to assume the responsibility of parents.  Their love can more easily be unconditional.

Adam, my sister’s son, visited me for a few days several weeks ago.  He doesn’t call me Uncle Omelet any more, as he did four decades ago. But we do have a special relationship.

I love Adam. He grew up with difficulty because for his first years no one realized that when he was ill (and for a while that was fairly often) he was deaf so his speech development was delayed and his early behavior often difficult and not understandable.  He grew up in a family that prized intellectual achievement but he had difficulty with reading . . . though he was a whiz in figuring out how electronic gadgets worked.

The family did not think he would be “successful.”  But, at twenty-two, he left for Florida and was happy as an entrepreneur, working with an assortment of trades and deals.  People love him because of his sweet simplicity born, I imagine, from a very different early viewpoint of parents and adults.  What you see is what you get.  He may not completely understand people and life as his family does, but he is the happiest and most successful of the three children.  Who would have thought!

So I love this child man, my sister’s son, as only an elder uncle can.  He confides in me in a way unthinkable with his parents and I enjoy my nephew for who he is, as well as being a family member.

What a pleasure, being an older Dutch Uncle!