Column: Knowing strangers

‘He could walk by me on the street and I would never know who he is.’

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Column: Knowing strangers

"All the years he was in prison, his name was brushed under the rug."

Noah Nielson

"All the years he was in prison, his name was brushed under the rug."

Noah Nielson

Noah Nielson

"All the years he was in prison, his name was brushed under the rug."

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When I first met my uncle, it was a mind-blowing experience like none other; this man knows my past but I don’t know his.

He could walk by me on the street and I would never know who he is.

My uncle was always a mystery to me. I never knew him until this year. All the years he was in prison, his name was brushed under the rug. He has been in there since the ‘90s, which is longer than I have been alive.

 


 

I didn’t know he was real until a letter with his name written on the front of the letter sat cold and alone in my mailbox.

When he was released, I was confused about what he would look like. How he would act.

Would he even like me?

When I first met him, I was sweating nervously. In my head, the craziest thought wasn’t why he was in prison but that he was related to me.

I was expecting him to be a buff 6-foot-6 inch man, but he wasn’t, he looked like a normal dude. He looked like my dad. When I heard him speak, I felt at peace because I knew who he was. He is a part of my family. He went to jail but I forgive him.

He made a mistake, but doesn’t everyone?

 


 

He has to adjust to the “real” world. He didn’t have a mobile phone or any of the luxuries we have every day. To put in perspective, he has never seen Michael Phelps win any medals.

But I think he is adjusting well. He has a girlfriend, a family that is there for him whenever he needs and a house.

I only wish the best for him. I want him to succeed; I want to be able to know him and have our future family know him better than I will.


 

My whole life, I was taught whenever you see a stranger to yell “stranger danger” and run. But when my uncle walked through the door and saw him smile at me and my brother, I knew he was harmless.

Even though he has had a troubled past, he works on correcting his mistakes and is a role model for me. He knows he messed up and knows what he has to do to become a better version of himself. Despite everything, he always has a smile on his face.

We have only spoken to each other once. When we spoke, I felt the same way a detective does after solving a decade-long case. I finally found out who he was and I know he will be here for me and I’ll be here for him.

Peoples pasts don’t define them and I’m a strong believer in that; I’m proud to say he is my uncle and I know he will do great things.

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