Just over a week ago, on April 18th, my uncle passed away after many years of illness and declining health. It's been a rough road. Even though, I'm relieved that he's no longer suffering, I miss him a lot and the absence of his presence has created a huge void.
My father died when I was four and my uncle stepped into the father role for me. He was the master at putting together Barbie Swimming pools and was the only adult interesting in playing Super Mario Brothers with me when I got my Nintendo system for Christmas. He used to sneak away during their annual 4th of July parties to watch the Twilight Zone marathon with me in the bedroom. He took me to the zoo and museums, turning me into someone who enjoys exhibits at a very leisurely pace! He took me for wild rides in golf carts, which I loved. When we went on yearly vacations to Maui, he got right in the waves with me and helped me build sand castles. My uncle was a lot of fun.
I carved my first and only jack-o-lantern of my childhood with my uncle. It was something that my mom just never had me do (and honestly, something that I don't enjoy as an adult) and close to Halloween, they had a pumpkin patch at the Newport Fashion Island Mall. We brought one home and my uncle helped me carve it..sort of....it turned out, he got so excited to help with the pumpkin, that he did it all himself and I watched! Then, he told us to store it on our patio for the week leading up to Halloween. It turned completely moldy and fell apart when we tried to pick it up!
Leaving the pumpkin on the patio may have been awful advice, but it was the exception. My uncle loved to dispense advice, especially financial. As an adult, I can appreciate it and luckily, a lot of it stuck. However, being on the receiving end of long-winded financial conversations was not fun for a kid. I learned to get crafty about changing the subject or ducking out of the room in time to save myself from torture!
One time, I gave my uncle a bit of advice that turned into a favorite family story. We were on a trip to Maui and I went with my uncle swim suit shopping. I was about six and sitting outside the dressing room as he tried on suit after suit. My uncle was not known to be a quick shopper, often doing a lot of comparing and usually experiencing buyers remorse with every purchase. Finally, I got fed up with the swim suit shopping and told him to "Just buy it Uncle Larry". It worked and became a family phrase.
My uncle had many heart attacks and surgeries over the years and we were very lucky to have him with us for so long. I feel grateful that he was well enough to go on so many wonderful vacations with my aunt, including a big trip Europe. I've spent a lot of time this week going through pictures and it has made things easier to remember all of the fun times.
I also feel grateful that my uncle was well enough to walk me down the aisle in 2004. It was so important to me to have my uncle in my wedding, that we actually pushed the wedding date forward after my uncle had a health scare. Even though my marriage ended in divorce, I still hold close to my heart having my uncle there and also having him do the father-daughter dance with me to Sinatra's You Make Me Feel So Young. My uncle was fantastic dancer.
He loved to watch old westerns and had tons of battered Louis L'Amour novels. The last museum trip I made with him was to the Gene Autry Western Heritage in 2004. It was right up his alley.
This week, I've heard a lot of funny stories about my uncle, from my aunt and family friends. He had a lot of people who loved him and will miss him.
He loved to talk to and meet new people. He was very friendly, chatty and curious.
I'm not sure if I believe in heaven, however, if my uncle is there, he has surely not made it through the pearly gates. He has been too busy having a beer and cracking jokes with St. Peter, holding up the rest of the line!