Looking back as an adult, I can’t help but marvel at his deep pool of patience with all children. He was a steady, stable constant in my childhood, and then due to my own father’s death before I was 20, he stepped in and stepped up as a father figure when he sensed I needed him.
He was never demonstrative with his affection or advice. He just let me know with a smile or look that he was there. He knew he couldn’t and most certainly would never even try to replace my Dad, but he was such an honorable and loyal soul. He had a genuine affection for my father, so there that there was a natural shifting of sorts in our relationship following my Dad’s passing.
He gave me away at my wedding and our time spent together alone that day before heading to the church is one of my most precious memories.
In the ensuing years, he moved closer to where I lived, and there were many more opportunities to spend time with him. More time to sit and listen to the things he had to say and also, more importantly, to those he didn’t say out loud. Time to learn by observing how he managed difficult people and difficult situations.
What he thought about the world and the messy people in it. His reaction to crazy situations and people contributing to the craziness was a slight shaking of his head, with a quiet grunt and a big smile.
His views on what made a person “good” and what made them less than. He was the first person in my life that explained to me that humans are fallible beings. No one wants to act badly; situations and life cause that to occur.
The best compliment I ever received in my life was from him. He told me out of the blue one time that what he loved most about me was that I wasn’t judgmental and he told his daughter and me that we had open loving heart for others.
When I think about that day, I wonder if I was, in fact, judging someone or complaining about someone to him. We were together at his place with my cousin, his daughter. It seems a strange way to start a conversation like that with the 2 of us. I wonder if we weren’t venting to him (likely about our mothers). But it isn’t about the compliment or even what we were discussing leading up to that moment of the compliments getting thrown at us out of the blue.
What I am trying to recollect and share, is what and how he chose to teach us both that day. His way of counselling was to point out a positive within us. By pointing that out, whether it was true or not, he made me strive to live those characteristics and show them moving forward in my life.
His was a heart you wanted to make full of love for you and your love and everything you held dear was so very, very safe with him.
His children were his world, and when he lost his daughter, that beautiful heart of his was working hard to deal with the hole left behind and stepping up to spill all of what he had left into her son, whom he held so close and loved so dearly.
My uncle died a year following his daughter’s passing and the only comfort I ever got from that was the thought of them together again somewhere. Because he lived far away from me when he died, it has been easier for me to just think of him as “away”.
He will always be with me, especially when I hear certain music and memories flood in of him playing DJ, mixing his tapes, a beer close by.
Nodding his head with his eyes closed, smiling that amazing smile of his. “Niece- check THIS out!”
And that laugh.
Thank you for everything, Uncle.