In my primary school’s Social Studies class the definition of family was, “a group of people with similar blood type living under one roof, supporting each other physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.”

I was at least 10 years old when I was taught that definition and it stayed with me for years. I was never raised to challenge authority or to question people or things. I was only expected to obey anyone older than me, regardless of what they say or do. Any resistance would be met with a beating, therefore I believed everything I was told. My mother was weak. We never bonded because she was never there. Not physically, not mentally, not financially, not emotionally. I cannot find any images of mom and I in my memory. I can recall events that occurred from the age of three and mom is nowhere there. I never questioned it nor did I find it strange because there was never a lack of love in my life. I was raised by five uncles and grandpa, being the only niece and grandchild it was always a game of tug-of-war for me. I was born and raised in hardship: I can recall my daily meals being either a choice of water sweetened with sugar; breadfruit with salt; eggs with salt and, water, water was always available. Grandpa was the only one with a job, my mom being the oldest of eight and with a child, was said to have gone to a different parish to find work, that was the story that floated over my peanut brain growing up. My uncles were between 10 and 15 at the time of my birth. As expected the youngest had to stop going to school to care for me. There were no daycare centers or hiring a babysitter, as I said earlier, we were dirt poor. Of the five uncles, Fritz was my favorite. Not only because he was the youngest who had to play the role of uncle, dad and baby sitter. But because he was the beginning of love. I can vividly recall being sick with jaundice because I was malnourished. Uncle would wake at the crack of dawn, get me dressed, feed me and sing “Jesus Loves Me” until the sun came up. He’d take my clothes off and walk with me, face to the sun for hours and, without a frown or complaint. I can still feel the  sun’s heat lingering on my skin. I can still see his eyes smiling and face beaming with pride as he walked his niece with hopes of curing me. Uncle was my first love. Even today at 32 I look for qualities of him in every male that crosses my path. People give me looks of mystification whenever I tell them that I’m looking for my uncles qualities in any guy. One even told me he found my fascination with uncle’s qualities concerning and disgusting. See, everyone has their definition of perfect, of love, of family. My definition is what my uncle showed me as a child: unconditional, timeless, everlasting feeling of belonging. It’s a feeling we shared from sitting on cold concrete floors listening to his stories of challenges he faced as a child. The feeling and ability to be fearless, to be myself, make mistakes and know I’d alway be forgiven. He was all I knew, he was LOVE, he was FAMILY, he was the breath that kept me alive. He was peace, he was joy, he was laughter. …

I was barely 15 when he was murdered. For years I lost all feelings of trust and love. I lost the only person who was family. I questioned wether God exists or is a myth. For my uncle was the closest to perfect you’d ever get. Literally, he’d never hurt a fly. I wondered what sane God would allow someone to enter his home and pelt bullets through his pure heart. For years I would self destruct. It was my method for ignoring the pain of not having him around. For years I emulated everything he hated. I blamed him for being in the right place at the wrong time. I prayed to be dead for I knew I’d never find a love of family like he showed me.

Im better now, much better. I used everything I learned from uncle to help me through my mourning. I see him in my actions and decisions daily. I keep a photograph of him front and center of my eyes. I tell my children of this exceptional earthly being their mommy had. They don’t quite understand yet,  it I ensure they feel the love that flows through me, from him.

Continue to sleep in perpetual peace, uncle. Even after my last breath, I’ll love you .

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