"The son of the late John and Mable Northcutt Jordan, he was a US Army veteran of the Korean War and graduated and received his Bacherlors and Masters degrees from Tennessee State University. A member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, he was also a member of Cumberland Lodge #90 in South Pittsburg and the American Legion. He worked for many years as the Southeast Regional Program Director for the Health and Human Services Division of the US Government."
Like a good nephew, I always did just that, and I loved that I had no other obligation with his yearly donation other than to go somewhere and have a drink. Get a buzz. Enjoy life, because life is hard, but life is also good, especially when you have your family.
I always wondered why the hell we only had Heineken and Natural Light at Jordan family get-togethers. In the black community, Heineken is generally the top-tier beer that everyone is going to agree on, and you don't want to be that guy who brings the craft brew and gets laughed and joked out of the barbecue. On the other hand, Natural Light is just amazingly horrible. According to Wikipedia, in 2001 it was ranked by Consumer Reports as the number two light beer and additionally characterized as one of the "best buys." It also got a Bronze Medal in the World Beer Cup in the American Style Light-Lager category. This is crazy, because while it's selling like hotcakes (made of piss batter), it currently maintains "an aggregate score of D- on notable beer-rating site BeerAdvocate.com while being listed as the worst beer in the world by RateBeer.com." Because it sucks. But there it always was, at our family holiday functions, waiting for me to choose it over Heineken, which just never happened.
I remember feeling completely numb to the statement at the moment, and not really reacting at the time. I also remember one by one, most of the family there at the card table walked away, except one person--Uncle John. Besides him sitting right there, not allowing any feelings he had about what Dad said to show, I can't remember anything after the moment the words were put in the air. Perhaps it was the effect of the few Heinekens I'd had, or perhaps it was just so random and unexpected and unprovoked. But I remember Uncle John not running away. He just sat there, sipping his Natural Light, with his head titled slightly down and a look that was neither happy nor sad.
After a couple of days processing what he'd said at the BBQ, I determined that I was mad as hell at Dad, and that we needed to get some things straight. I called him, cursed him out with as much muster as I could gather, hung up on him, and we had a chilled relationship for more than a year. He apologized and we eventually reconciled. Even though I knew all his siblings that were either present or heard about the incident at the card table told him he needed to apologize, especially Aunt Anne, I didn't mind the crowd-influenced mea culpa. Regardless of why he apologized or who put him up to it or never said a word, Dad said he was sorry, and that was enough for me. We all moved on.
Before Christmas, I'd received confidential word from Aunt Anne that Uncle John had been given six months to live, and he was in the "bucket list" phase, sending letters and emails to lifelong friends saying he'd miss them.
I didn't receive one of those emails, but I did receive a Christmas card from him, with a handwritten note that said to buy my daughter a gift for him. It didn't say what I always expected a card from Uncle John to say, but that's OK. As a full-grown adult, with a house, a beautiful fiance' and a wonderful little daughter, it was time for me to buy my own beer, and to spend any money he sent to me on the next generation of the family, just as he once did for me. Little girls, however, don't require beer (especially at two years old). They require love, attention, educational tools, toys, clothes, jewelry, 529 college saving accounts, piggy banks... money.
They say when one door closes, another one opens. If the door is now shut on the wonderful life of my uncle John, the one that figuratively stood between my father and I is now cracked open, just enough for one or both of us to walk through.
Somewhere beyond the stars, I bet Uncle John is perfectly happy. His passing may heal the rift between his baby brother and his loving nephew. That's definitely not a price I wanted to pay, but knowing the kind of guy he was he'd probably tell me, "Well Mike, the good news is that neither you or I have f*cking choice!," with his infectious smile and laugh. And although Uncle John can no longer sponsor my well-deserved buzz or break for liquid relaxation, he has given Dad and I another chance at having a relationship. That's "one" that's certainly worth more than a Heineken or a Natural Light.