Friday, December 22, 2017

Remembering Uncle Norman

Uncle Norman and 16 year-old me, arguing on Xmas.
Many people have an Uncle Norman. He's the guy at the family gathering who shouts and sputters about right-wing politics. My Uncle Norman stuttered. He was alt-right half a century before the term was invented. He made family gatherings interesting, if verbal warfare is something you enjoy. He was my mother's brother. My father called him "Stormin' Norman."

He lived in Akron Ohio which was only about 30 miles away. Even so, we only got together once a year on December 25th.  My family was small and everyone was there. My father's mother Josie and Norman's parents, Ruth and Al. We celebrated in a secular, Jewish fashion which involves and lot of drinking, eating, yelling and animated talking.

Norman and I argued about politics: the Vietnam War, protests, feminism, the police and their powers, self-expression, women's fashion, you name it, we fought about it. At that time the big issue was the war in Vietnam which he considered a fight for freedom. He loved the police and would dwell on how powerless I would be as a young woman to defend myself against rape without them. In the Roy Cohn tradition, he loved capitalism and hated commies. I honed my debate skills in these sessions.

I wasn't totally out to myself as lesbian in those years, but I knew I was desperately different than my friends. When Norman would tell me that I would change after I got married, I responded that marriage wasn't in the cards for me. He said that I'd change my mind. When I replied that he never married and that I was like him, he turned red, stuttered and changed the subject. Same gender marriage was so far off the map in the sixties, no-one even speculated about that.

I have reason to believe that Norman never had an intimate sexual relationship. Of course, I don't know this for sure but I know that he never talked of female friends or acquaintances. He was socially unskilled. He worked as an engineer. I think he was part of a bowling league. When my father and mother first met, my father paid a prostitute to try to seduce him. She was unsuccessful. I'm almost positive he was gay and I'm also sure that it was something he never acted upon. Although he didn't believe in religion, he scorned gay people. It was not a group in which he desired to participate.

He was fully Jewish in a racial sense, and deeply ashamed of it as well. He was the only Jew I've ever heard state, seriously, that Hitler had a point. It astonished me the way he took self-hatred to new levels.

Stormin' Norman died September 22, 2017. I only know that because I got a legal, registered letter in the mail that I had to sign for. It said that if Norman had died without a will (intestate) my sister and I would be the ones to inherit his estate, but since that's not the case they legally had to let me know that we are not in his will in case we want to pursue legal action. The will becomes a public document in a few weeks. The lawyer says it will be online. It will be interesting to see if he died with money and what people or groups he left it to. It wouldn't surprise me if it has gone to organizations like the NRA or groups fighting to turn back same-sex marriage.

Oddly enough, now that he is no longer in this world, I miss him.