He used to push me around in a beer crate when I was a baby, give me swigs of alcohol before I could even speak and handed my brother a cigarette when he was 4 year years old.
He was my famous uncle Sean.
He’d come over with v.h.s. tapes of his late-night, stand-up comedy routines, hit play and watch his nieces and nephews laugh at his jokes (and pretend to laugh at the ones we didn’t understand yet).
He trained us to sing his very own personal theme song whenever we saw him, “Sean Keane, Sean Keane is really here,” we’d all chant as he swiveled around, dramatically pointing at invisible cameras on our front lawn.
I’d tell my friends at school about my uncle and how he was on t.v. I was so proud to be related to him.
As I grew older, I started to see Sean’s other, more heart-breaking dimensions. He’d tell me countless stories about how his sitcom ideas were robbed. He’d point to faces on magazine covers and say, in a disappointed tone, that he did a show with that guy before he made it big. He’d talk desperately about fame. He wanted it, craved it, more than anything.
When I was 13, my father Chris (Sean’s brother) died, which caused me to see less and less of Sean and my other aunts and uncles. I don’t know why our family’s hinges loosened after my father died. Maybe it was because we all reminded eachother of Chris and it was easier not to see eachother than to think of him and his absence. Grief acts in funny, inexplicable ways sometimes.
I left Montreal in my early 20’s to play in a band. I often thought of Sean after a good show. I’d swim in the beautiful feeling of sharing a moment with a crowd full of smiling strangers. Nothing can top that feeling. The more I went on stage, the more I understood him.
And after bad shows, I’d feel the same desperation I used to see in Sean, the same hunger for validation, the feeling of being cheated of something shiny and deserved of.
At Sean’s funeral yesterday, my aunt Jenny said some things that stuck with me. She said that Sean had always lived his dream without compromise. That he didn’t need to look for his big break, because he was already there.
I wish I could tell him that. I wish I could tell him how much he inspired me and how much I loved him.