Uncle Clem spoke about his parents. “I was blessed with a wonderful Mama, whose love for me was true, eternal, and unconditional. She was shunned and sent away from her family and the only life she’d ever known, just for choosing to be a mother to me, to love and raise me. She truly lived for family, and she made me love and accept myself and always walk with my head held high. Our bond of love is forever.”
“I’m grateful for a Papa who loved me and made me into the man I am today. Our incredible bond was not borne of blood but of love. He claimed me as his own, sight unseen, and gave me his name and heart while I was still in my mama’s womb. It’s not easy to raise another man’s child, much less a white man’s child in the deep South in the early 1900s, but that’s exactly what he did. He loved past my skin and into my heart, and he did so proudly. He would tell anyone, white or colored, that I was his son. I learned so much from him. He taught me everything. I’m so proud and honored to be his son.”
After that, Uncle Clem sat down, wiped away his tears, and took another swig of whiskey. Everyone was wiping away tears. We hugged him and told him we loved him. Next, he opened his gifts and thanked everyone for them. About an hour later, after finishing his whiskey and his cigar, he thanked everyone again for his gifts, and I helped him back upstairs to his room.
I built him a fire while he changed into his pajamas, methodically hung his suit, shirt and bowtie in the closet, and put away his shoes. He carefully put his hat back in its box and placed it on the shelf. After hugging him once more, I wished him good night and asked him if there was anything else I could do for him.
He smiled. “Have a seat. I’ve got a favor to ask of you.”
I sat down. “Sure, anything.”
He leaned in closer and put his hand on top of mine. “Like I told you before, I’m not sure how much longer I have left on this here side, but I’m sure it won’t be much longer.”
“What is it? What do you need me to do?”