The man at the door was missing an arm, part of his jaw, and he smelled like a brewery.
He claimed we were related.
My wife had left me, my son was in college, so I let the man in.
When he asked if I had any alcohol, I brought out port. He said it tasted like goat urine, but polished off the bottle anyway.
He told me that, while in Iraq, an IED had ripped his vehicle into confetti. “It took my arm, half my face. I’m lucky to be breathing.”
“I’m Uncle Buck!” he said, slapping his thigh.
“Seriously? You’re my father’s brother?”
“Why would I lie?”
I requested stories about Dad.
He said my father’s horrible insecurities were what made him career-obsessed, eventually turning him into an alcoholic. He said Dad felt guilty for working so much, for not ever being present as I grew up. He said Dad loved me more than life.
“Oh, man,” he said.
There were more stories, each enthralling and semi-accurate, but then he had to go.
At the door, I asked, “Did you know Dad’s dead?”
I hugged him hard. “Come back soon, Uncle Buck.”
He winced. “I’m not really your uncle.”
“Everything I said about your dad, I was just describing myself.”
“So–you and I–we’re not, like, well, even related.”
I patted his good arm and said, “Maybe not directly.”