I used to have this Uncle. Won't spell out the exact relationship just so no one can tell the person I am talking about. This Uncle passed away shortly after Him and I were married. It was not anything that we expected. One assumed that his tall figure would always wait at the airport when one landed, paper rolled under the arm, waving lanky arms excitedly. I understand from my mother's stories about my baby days, that he was everything to me for a while. I must not have felt any of that in my teen years, because I had been nothing short of a b**** to the poor man. That is a strong word for me. I live in a household with many males and they all swear routinely. But this is the only word that I cannot stand. There is some manner of violence to it that I can't put my finger on. So to say that is what I was to this much hassled uncle is to say that I really was a miserable human being for a while.
I hated him with a passion for some years. Some years, because from the time that I lived with my grandma, Uncle and Aunt, to the time the said Uncle died, it was just seven short years. I often wonder how much my utter disregard for his feelings must have contributed to his overall disillusion. He was all of 59 when he passed away. I believe he died of a broken heart. My Aunt is a good woman, but I think my Uncle was beaten down by life.
My entire issue started when my parents discussed their particular disagreements with him in front of me. I could never think well of him after. Dad's angst was understandable. To the rational, planned, "never-drop-the ball" type A's, he would have seemed a bumbling buffoon. I spent the years from 13-16 believing it. And the years from 16-18 hating him for it. Hate as in visceral hate. And yet, he never showed me what he thought or felt. Through all of my attempts to ignore him in the home that we all lived in, and through all my attempts to exclude him from the fabric of my life, that in truth, him and my aunt were holding together, he still asked after my well being. Bought goodies that he knew I liked, and never once let on to my parents that he was dissatisfied with my conduct, and that sometimes, as a teenager would, I skimped on helping around the house. Tiny though it was.
That is not to say that he didn't have his failings. I only failed to note in that time in my life, that everyone did, everyone who lived on after him developed even bigger failings, and that he had been someone who existed solely to take care of everyone around him. He didn't have any children. But he took care of his mother, me, a couple of wild cousins, a sister and generally made everyone else's problems his. Which might be why he could never get anywhere. Of course, no one in the family will believe it. But it is my take on why he might have failed where others atleast broke the surface.
Uncle just continued living as joyously as he could in his cramped life. And one could tell that he could not feel his lack. That he expected to be loved and appreciated and did not feel poor. He didn't behave like there was anything missing from his life although a great deal had been lacking since childhood. For all the siblings in fact. But he was the only one living where the others had left. He tried to keep his wife happy as he could. And tried to ignore Dad's repeated attempts to beat some monetary sense into him. And tried to laugh and joke and be an outstanding human connection to everyone who ever crossed his path. And continued to ignore Dad's pleas for some sense as he sent yet another lump sum of money that Uncle asked for.
Money was the construct that broke them in the end. The arguments, the stress and the lost gaiety came from Uncle and Aunty needing more, and Dad having to provide. And still there was so much to Uncle that we couldn't appreciate then.
I was resentful of Dad having to part with his hard earned money then. And I still don't think that he should have had to fund anyone's lifestyle. But the grey area gets me these days. I mean...so what? So bloody what if he needed a handout every year? And so what if he took trips and ate out and laughed and hung out with friends? Was he supposed to stop breathing from the guilt? He didn't live in a forgiving country. And he told me later that he never in all his life asked for a raise because he believed that raises had to be given. Not asked for. And even I. at 18 knew that not much came from this world without that initial push at the very least from us.
He didn't belong here. And he was idealistic and impulsive. Loving and carefree. I grew to understand once I was on my own, and struggled for a bit to be understood myself. It all grew into appreciation pretty quickly. And it seemed to me for a short while after I was married, that he would always be there to reach out to. Which is why I never called him after saying goodbye to him at the airport in Aug 2000, as a new bride going away with her husband. He was gone in November. I do not have guilt that I did not call. I feel immense guilt that I burdened him with childishness when he had been so close to death. And when he could have used some affection and understanding. I now believe those two qualities can change so much in people's lives.
I regret the arrogance that allowed me to think so little of him; regret that it prevented any closeness...
To a man who had once been everything to me. That manner of blindness is the worst in the world. I hope he knows that I regret my lost teen years that could have been better. For all of us. I hope he knows that I am sorry for being a cause of strife in his tragically short life. And I hope he knows that I love him. I never did tell him that.
And of course, I hope he knows that the whole bunch of us who judged and withheld appreciation are actually grateful. Even if his life never quite fit our shortsighted framework, he was quite the champion. Our lives had been better with him in it. And better because of him.
He also loved flowers. And laughter. What a loss! Our loss...
His birthday falls in the second week of September. This is my remembrance.
*image - "Gardenia" by panuruangjan through www.freedigitalphotos.net