looking back the uncle doesn’t know if he knows something now or if it was just a pile of salt because when you get down to it what people really pride themselves in in the ever-revolving dynamics the ebb and flow of contacts our movements our comebacks like we’re always mingling at a party is not how well you do math or your vocabulary it’s how quickly you can read expressions the emotional aura of the person or persons you’re with and what you do with this knowledge is a moral choice it’s almost like twenty questions with us we size each other up and with a little background what we reveal with our likes and dislikes we think we have an accurate portrait maybe even a title for it a profile. So let’s resolve some of that mystery get rid of the shroud and get to the bottom of Jason K. Akley what you need to know about this uncle this man about to turn forty not really giving advice to his nephew (other than the never giving eye contact thing) but in seeing his nephew grow up and now seeing him join the military like he did like his father did well it just made him want to reclaim some of those memories take another look at them after some twenty years not really a nostalgia but yeah I guess like sitting around on a Sunday afternoon listening to songs from those times what you felt in them then and what’s been fulfilled in them now and so he was well aware of some of his own issues how it was true he was born with a shy tendency a passive nature the same tendency he saw now in his younger daughter who was hesitant to try new things and would cry when put on the spot (funny she’s a little artist loves to draw and write even her kindergarten teacher used the phrase “she’s really a good writer” in her first quarter evaluation) so that’s where nature comes in but then there’s the nurture part and my mother god bless her is kind of a fearful and superstitious woman who tends to feed on drama and negative energy (thankfully my girls’ mother is not like this and I can already see my younger daughter coming out of her shell—maybe she won’t be a late-bloomer) I’m not saying she was a terrible mother but she enabled that shy tendency and complicated it with the Pentecostal church and my father didn’t really have a father his father just beat the shit out him until he died and then his step-father beat the shit out him until he left the house when he was sixteen with one pair of blue jeans he washed by hand still managing to graduate as valedictorian of his class and gain a scholarship to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where he met my mother. He never beat me but he was the kind to let things stew and fester (my mother’s nagging didn’t help) and then he would blow up and give a good lashing with his tongue and I hate to admit it most of his advice when he gave it just discouraged me because I was too young to be cynical but now that he’s gone and I’m barely three years older than how old he was when I was born I can see he was just preparing me for some hard lessons and I used to laugh as he tinkered around the house in retirement (he was a full bird in the Air Force) but he would just take my mockery as casting pearls before swine and he’d say, “Your dad’s a genius.” (I’ll admit he made me laugh a lot and there’s that picture of you standing by the coffin with the American flag spread over it you were only about five then but man you loved your poppa and I’m glad you didn’t have to see it really see it and remember how hospice just slowly increased the doses of liquid morphine how his eyes became glass how I saw death in my father’s eyes…)

that’s not what i really want to know

I know—you want to know how this plays into the role of alpha male…