Thursday, September 30, 2004

A strange influence rediscovered.

At the aforementioned gathering, I got to get reacquainted with the biggest influence of my formidable teen years. Ivan was my uncle by marriage, married to my aunt Jeanie for well over 15 years before they divorced. He is only 11 years older than I. When my father decided to bail, and the rest of my mother's family decided to treat me like an emotional kicking post, Ivan and Jeanie were the only ones who tried to shelter and protect me. More so Ivan, he was the great guide. In more ways than one. Ivan had three great passions: sex, drugs, and music. The sexual aspect was not the vanilla kind either. He liked porn, and thought sexuality was to be explored openly with no shame, no matter what you were into. He was also the county connection for pot. He smoked my first joint with me, goddess knows how old I was. As for music, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath was what he introduced me to. Did he make sexual advances toward me? Sure he did, starting at about 13ish. However, there was no shame implied when he touched me. It was not so much him trying to take advantage. It was more like he understood the curiosity teenage girls felt, and was offering me a safe place to explore it. I never accepted his offers. It felt like I would have ceased to be his special, favorite one if I had. He talked to me about all the things he had done, and answered every possible question I with candor and humor. I never felt any shame with him. He and Jeanie were in an open relationship their whole marriage, so my relationship with him never felt wrong. I was no one's favorite but theirs, in a family where being the favorite was a survival tool.
Years later, in my early 20's, Jeanie decided she wanted a child. He didn't, and told her that if she got pregnant, the marriage was over. She didn't and it was. I saw less and less of him from that point on. It annoyed me that he wanted to be a "father" figure to me, but not to his own flesh and blood. He moved in with another woman as sexually freaky as he was, and they are still together. They had a son of their own. He started down a path of stronger drugs and stranger, cruder sexual tastes. I was trying to be an adult. Ivan never met John to my knowledge, and probably would have been shocked to know I lost my virginity at 24, to the man I married. As a widow and a single woman, the lessons I learned from Ivan about sexual independence and shamelessness have indeed carried me through some tough times relearning how to relate to my own sexuality. I will always be grateful to him for that.
I saw Ivan for the first time in about 5 years at the funeral. He was looking every second of his 44 years. I was getting complements on how I had not aged. I saw him across the room and he started at seeing me. I jumped at seeing him as well. I walked over and he did what he always did: motioned for me to sit on his knee. He looked at his wife and said," I was hoping to see my baby and here she is." For one more time I was the favorite. It soothed so much pain from Angel's death for me to hear him say that. We talked for several hours about what we had done with our lives. He hadn't even known about John's death; I didn't know he had fathered another child. It was an oasis in a stormy time, and I am so grateful.