The Memorial for R. today went well, especially considering that the Roman Catholic Church does not "recognize" gay unions. On the altar were flowers, the urn containing R.'s remains, and two pictures--one of R. with a daughter from an early marriage. The other was a three-piece photo-frame of R. with the squirrel that was his pet for several years.
I didn't see a photo of my uncle and R., and could feel blood rushing to my face.
Angry, I tapped my mom, "I think there should be at least one picture of uncle and R..."
She gently asked:
"Did you see the pictures out front?"
It was then that I walked to the back of the church(the entrance) and saw the lively collage of pictures of family--many with uncle and R.,and two of just the two of them: in one, they were both dressed in Gasparilla t-shirts(Gasparilla is an annual celebration in Tampa)and looking very 1980's, my uncle with a bushy mustache, R. with clipped hair; the other featured the couple in swimwear, circa 1970's with 'fro-ed hair and dark tans.
It was very heartening to hear the priest at this local church speak of knowing R.(he was his barber for many years), and when he spoke of us all being "of God", it was clear this priest makes no distinctions; we are all of God. All of us. He repeated it several times.
I kept stroking my uncle's back. I chose to sit just behind him, as my mom was seated on one side, and his beloved R.'s daughter, on the other.
He was stronger than me. I cried a few times. Uncle was solid, showing little emotion. And it struck me: this is the way it's always been. Hide his feelings, Don't reveal himself. By the end of the Memorial Mass, uncle seemed relieved.
It was especially moving to see a cute gay couple, seated just behind us(the family) and see the younger of the two men, perform the sign of the cross, receive communion, and acknowledge us, during the Catholic Mass.
Afterwards, as we all gathered at the entrance to the church, I spoke to this great couple of men, known as "Frank and Frank"(I joked that they sound like a law firm), good friends of my uncle's, and it turns out, they are neighbors with a dear friend of mine!
I told them about helping uncle with the obituary(see my previous entry at this blog), and they nodded. It felt good to see that.
I returned to the subject of the Memorial, and told them "I'm Catholic, or at least, I'm trying. But I'm activist. I'm like, where's a great big picture of the two of them?"
The older Frank nodded. "I know."
"But at the entrance, they had pictures up, and there were several..." my voice trailed off, as the younger Frank added that he's close with my uncle.
Then we talked about where we lived, if we had pets, and then-- dogs-- and they told me they have five(yes, five!) and we are going to have to all get together.
I feel like R. was watching over not only my uncle, and my mom, but over me, too.