Usually when my mom calls me at work it's something of a somewhat urgent nature--not bad, necessarily, but maybe just something that needs to be worked out quickly. While I had that momentary surge of panic I get every time I get an unexpected call from my parents number, I never dreamed my mom would tell me what she did--that my Uncle Dave had passed away. Literally a year and a day after Uncle Cliff, now it was the husband of my dad's other sister. Noooo. Not again.
Uncle Dave had been having a lot of health issues lately. He'd had concerning heart problems a few years back that seemed to have stabilized, but just recently he was having trouble again. At Christmas we knew things weren't good, but they were looking into options. But apparently none worked out and unbeknownst to me, he had been in the hospital for a week. Things went downhill rather quickly, and here we are.
I'm heartbroken, obviously, for so many reasons. I can't quite fathom how my aunt, as independent as she can be, will process this after 40+ years of marriage. I feel terrible for my cousins, one of whom lives across the country and is probably regretting not having more time with his dad in the time he's been away. The other was one of my best family buds growing up, and he just got engaged to a wonderful woman. So, even without having seen them yet, I can only imagine the range of emotions they're all dealing with.
On a broader level, our family will certainly never be the same without him. He was definitely a different sort of character--an outdoorsman, sports lover, a little rougher around the edges than some, or at least of the no-frills variety. He was never afraid to speak his mind, though sometimes at family events he tended to quietly stick along the fringes. I think he liked to observe the rest of us crazy people and interject when he felt it was necessary. You never quite knew what he might say. I would say that as I got older, I feel like most conversations with him ended with him encouraging me in some way--either supporting me in parenting or very simply complimenting my appearance. It was all very subtle--to the extent that I didn't really realize that tendency until now, thinking back on what I remember about him. He probably knew I was stressed and just wanted to give me that little boost.
He loved his family fiercely, and his boys' pursuits were always at the forefront. He loved sports, especially baseball, and could frequently be found umpiring back in the day. He was a teacher by trade and very much enjoyed his retirement by taking on a much more "relaxed" look once he was free of Catholic high school standards! The flannels and ponytail he sported in later years were an interesting look, but hey, past a certain point whatever works for you!
One thing I will remember most, though, is how he was with Carter. I remember numerous times when Carter was little, when he was being a little fussy or needed some attention, and Uncle Dave would swoop in and grab him. Sometimes I think Carter initially wasn't too sure what was happening, but inevitably he was oddly cool with it. I say oddly because out of all of the warm, sweet-talking folks in the room that he could have cozied up to, he was so content in the arms of the bearded, rougher-voiced guy that scooped him up without a word. And interestingly, my cousin Brian (his son) had much the same effect in those days. Must have been a family thing. But I always remember being grateful for the diversion and amazed at how Carter took to him, especially given he didn't see him as much. There must have just been something about him that clicked. I feel so much sadness in thinking about those times now because with the recent engagement he was likely a mere couple years away from grandparenthood, and I know he would have loved it so much. It's a tragedy he never got the opportunity, but I hope any moments he had with Carter gave him a little bit of that joy.
On Wednesday I spent my lunch hour looking through my parents' scanned photos to find some classics to send to Brian. It was once again a bittersweet process, much like it was to scan them in the wake of Uncle Cliff's passing. To see a young, cool dude and a new father, and then think about today's reality...well, it stinks.
|Just a couple kids...|
|This one with baby Brian on Christmas melted my heart. That chair was my grandpa's chair for so many years. Ahhh, memories.|
|Spoon hanging was a family pastime at weddings! On the far left is my Uncle Bink, my dad's oldest brother, who we lost in 1997. 💔|
|I loved this one because big smiles were rare from him and I see both his boys in his face.|
|50th Birthday - closer to his look in later years|
With a snowstorm coming through this weekend, we have to wait until Monday to start our official goodbyes. As usual, I'm not looking forward to facing the sadness and finality, but I love my family and always appreciate time spent with them. Heck, the funeral home run by family friends, we probably feel far more comfortable there than we should. Regardless, I still can't believe he's gone. I'm thankful he's no longer in pain or dealing with chronic health issues, but I'm so sad about the good stuff ahead that he'll miss. Life just isn't fair sometimes, and this is definitely one of those times. Rest in peace, Uncle Dave. We'll miss you.