Yesterday early morning, my uncle passed away. It wasn’t an unexpected event; he had been placed in hospice the early part of June. Brain tumor, the same thing that took his father. I hadn’t seen him for last 35 years but had remained in casual contact through Facebook and email within the last decade. You wouldn’t think that the passing of such a person, relative or not, who had virtually no presence in my life would affect me the way it has. Of course, I feel sorry for my cousins, Ken and Chris, and their children who had such a wonderful grandfather. It must really be hurting them. But me? A distant niece? Surprisingly, yes.
While I was driving around carrying out some mundane errands today, it hit me: he’s gone for good. And I started crying. I cried for missed opportunities and the distant memories I had of him. He was a decent man who treated his sister’s children, my mother, like regular children and not the evil spawn of the demented sister. His higher education and inventions gained him a comfortable living, but he didn’t allow that to change him. He visited his parents often and his youngest son, Chris, who was closer to our age, was always fun to play with. His employment with an oil company allowed them to live in exotic places. They would come back with cool stories to tell and neat gifts to give. It was always fun visiting him and his family. When he was able,
he learned how to fly and purchased a plane. I remember when we were staying with him in Valencia, we went to the local airport and I got to fly for the first time. He took us to California City where we had french fries at the airport cafe, then went back home. I was never afraid because it was Uncle Bill.
But life went on, and my rebellious teen years landed me in the Air Force. That was last time I spoke directly to him. It was a Saturday. I was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base and I was in the middle of my technical training to be an air traffic controller. I just felt like talking to him, so I called him. We had a nice conversation and he got a kick out of my choice of career field. I was all of 19 years old, though, and had to drink, cavort and sow wild oats. And all of a sudden, it was 30 some odd years later and through the ubiquitousness of Facebook, the older son Ken, found me, and we were in communication again.
So, I’m done crying – mostly – and just wanted to say good-bye one last time.