Dear Buddy Boy,
I’m sorry it’s been so long since we talked. I was angry the last time we talked, just like I’m angry now. I was mad that you asked me to leave. I was mad that you thought it would make me a man. I was mad that you didn’t always believe me. I was mad that you couldn’t always understand me. I was mad that you had so many rules. I was also afraid, just like I am now. I was afraid that you were right. That I was really just in a weird transition period between adulthood and adolescence. That I had never learned how to be on my own. I was worried that I would fail. I was afraid that I couldn’t handle it. I was worried that we would never talk again. I was worried that I had disappointed you.
I tried to call a few times. I left messages but I could tell you got another new phone and the answering machine wasn’t set up. I figured I had years to call and say what had been too difficult to say when I was still in Chicago. I figured I had years to tell you that you were right. That being on my own was just what I needed. That sometimes I had to learn to listen before I could lead. That I should start wearing clothes that fit. That I should trim my beard and comb my hair. That I should clean my room and not wear wrinkled clothes. That as I got older everything would seem less urgent. That I should “get some order about myself.” That I needed to stop pursuing girls who were no good for me. You were right. You always were right, in your own way. I’m sorry I never got to tell you.
Now I fear I will never get to tell you. That you’ll never know what you meant to me. That you’ll never know how important you were to me. I’m terrified that you died thinking that I hated you or that I was still mad at you. I’m afraid you died thinking that I didn’t love you. I’m afraid they don’t have the internet in heaven. Or that maybe you’ll be too busy dancing with your wife to hear my prayers. But I needed to tell you that I love you. That I’m so glad that I got to live with you. That I am blessed to have had you in my life.
That while my father was great role model, it was you who actually taught me how to be an adult. You taught me how to fix chairs, re-wire electrical equipment, how to enjoy old westerns, how to play the dozens, how to choose a crisp hat, how to make sure you wear a suit correctly, how to treat elders and how to talk to children. You sat with me and showed me how to do it. Not only because you might need me to do for you later but you knew I needed to know. You showed me, laughed with and at me and waited until I got it right.
So now I’m at a loss. Years ago, when I first started to live in his old room, Keith and I were talking outside of church. He gave the same advice that you had once given him. He said that whenever I need to know what the right thing to do was I should just ask myself “whose judgment do I respect most in the world other than my parents and would they be approve of what you are about to do.” I knew right when he asked me, that it was your judgment I respected. Since that moment it has been your judgment I have measured my actions against.
I’m scared to try and navigate this world without being able to call on your judgment. I’m mad at the world for taking you too soon. I’m mad at myself for waiting until now to say all of this. I want to believe that you know all of this. Or that maybe time flows differently in heaven and you are here with me now sitting next to me as my tears and fingers hit this key board. If you are here now, you are probably thinking that I need to clean my room. That I should get some real blinds on my windows. That I need to fold my dress pants like you showed me. That I need to polish my shoes. You’d be right, on all accounts. I will spend this afternoon doing all of that. I’ll sweep too and no, I won’t just sweep around the furniture. I’ll move it and sweep under it too. I’ll clean my bathroom and scrub the tub.
Maybe you are also thinking that I shouldn’t post this. You never did like the idea about me writing about you. You never liked to brag about anything you did other than playing basketball. That’s only thing you were wrong about—that and perhaps a few of your jokes. The world should know that it is a better place because you were in it. The world should know that Francis Evans was great man. That his 47th Street philosophy will be remembered and passed on. That his jokes will be retold. That his wisdom will be passed on. That his stories will never be forgotten. In 60 years I’ll be siting with my old friends, talking shit and telling anyone who will listen [and even those who won’t] about my uncle, the greatest story teller who ever lived and the best man I’ve ever known.
I hope St. Peter let you take your hats with you to heaven. I like to imagine you riding off into the sunset with a white hat on, swaying in your saddle on the right side of God.
p.s. I’m doing alright. I remember to call my mother. I brush my beard every day. I learned to listen. And I found a few things to believe in…I’m doing alright.