I had fallen asleep on the couch. Although my uncle tried not to make any noise, the awkward rattle of him fumbling for his keys was enough to wake me. When he opened the door, letting the light from the hallway in, I could make out his hunched over form. I waited for him to shut the door before turning on the lights to reveal his bruised and battered form.
“You’re hurt. I thought you were……”
“Invincible,” he replied, flashing me a tired smile. “Far from it.”
With those words, he seemed to change. He stood a little straighter and taller. It was as if pain and weakness were beneath him.
“Do the others know?”
My uncle shrugged. “They just see the results. They don’t care about the cost. It’s easier for them to think I can’t be hurt. That I can’t feel anything.”
“I don’t understand.”
“This is why I’m the black sheep of the family. To the others, I’m a throwback, violent and unpredictable, someone who should only be called when needed. It’s my role.”
The stories my family told about him always illustrated those points. He had a wild side and was capable in a way that frightened people who heard about some of his exploits. Most spoke of him as if he was the boogeyman. He was someone to only be called as a last resort when all else had failed. His words hinted at the pain this caused him.
“Then why do it?” I asked.
“Love and duty,” he said, smiling. “I will always be there for my family but I can’t change who and what I am.”
I don’t know if he ever shared this with anyone else in the family. I didn’t care. To me, he was no longer the black sheep of the family but a white knight. I resolved to treat him as such from this day forward. He would always be welcome.
Author’s Note: I spent some time with a friend visiting this weekend so there was a delay in posting this story. There’s a lot I could say about this story. It’s taken a number of forms and title changes before I settled on the current one. That’s because this story has more meaning for me than most. I represents an evolution of sorts. Initially, I saw one of my uncles as black sheep of the family. I didn’t understand until we actually talked one Christmas. When he passed on, I fell into a similar role. As for sharing my feelings, we’re still working on that part which is why I wrote this story.