This morning my son told me he needs to wear red, white and blue to school because it's Veteran's Day. I was just thinking about my husband's uncle who was a veteran.
About nine years ago, my in-laws (now ex-in-laws) solemnly told my husband and me that they needed to talk to us. We were in their living room in their perfectly clean house, every picture frame in its exact place, not a speck of dust visible on the coffee table or the fireplace mantle. My husband and I sat next to each other on the couch while his parents each took a chair that formed a semi-circle that opened to the fireplace. My kids chased each other around the first floor, giggling while we sat down to have this obviously serious discussion.
My mother-in-law sat uncomfortably fidgeting in her chair. My very stoic father-in-law cleared his voice before he spoke. Neither made eye contact with us. "I need to tell you something very serious," he said. "I don't know exactly how to tell you this but your Uncle George..." he paused unable to go on, looking like he was going to tear up, something this giant man never ever did. My husband and I exchanged looks, knowing for sure what was coming - he had cancer, we thought he must be dying to cause this much emotion in Robert, Sr., as we all called him, not Dad, but Robert, Sr., always with the Sr. added as if he needed the formality to feel complete.
"He is gay."
Again, my husband and I exchanged glances. This time we smiled. My husband said exactly what I was thinking, word for word. "Really, you think?" They both finally looked at us and were shocked we were so amused at such horrible news.
"He has a lapdog named Princess," my husband said. After reading the confused looks from his parents, he added, "with a hair bow in her hair." He pointed to the picture at the center of the mantle. He had a formal portrait made with his pretty little dog with her pink hair bow. "That picture was him coming out. You seriously didn't know?" my husband asked his parents.
"Well, no," they said, somehow disappointed that we didn't share their disappointment in his brother's life choice, somehow let down that we didn't take the news harder and that it apparently wasn't news at all.
We got up with smiles and left them to their confused emotions.
About a year ago, my ex-husband told me that Uncle George had died. He told me he went to the funeral. Uncle George had been in the military, so he had a traditional service where they put an American flag on the casket and presented it to the family. "Robert, Senior was very upset," he told me very seriously, "that they gave the flag to Aunt Gary."