Saying Good-bye: A Truth About Growing Older

Uncle Bill and me at a family reunion. Also, Aunt Vivian and my cousin, Chris.

When we’re young and think about growing older, we think about how we’ll change physically and probably think about our death. Our young minds scamper away from these foreign ideas, unhappy with the idea. Yet, it’s a fact a life.

One truth about aging that we don’t grasp until we’re older is the loss of loved ones, and, inevitably, the fact that we only see close family members at the funerals for these loved ones.

A little over a week ago, we lost my Uncle Bill. My family has said a lot about him on Facebook as each of us deals with this loss, but I’ve said little. Why? Probably because my grandchildren consume my time to the point of exhaustion, but this doesn’t mean my thoughts haven’t been on Uncle Bill. He was a fun man to be around, always joking. You knew when a joke was coming because his lips started to twitch and his eyes would sparkle with delight.

He had stories galore, too. Stories that my cousins and I need to capture before they’re all forgotten.

My earliest memory of Uncle Bill is at a family reunion when I was five or six. I was sitting on his lap and wanted to get up. He wouldn’t let me without the magic word. Well, guess what? I had NO clue what the magic word was. While I tried to guess he held me there. Yes, my parents had taught me to say please and thank you, but I guess they never used the term, magic word. Somehow, I managed to escape. I don’t recall if I said please or not, but I’ve never forgotten it.

After I grew up, Uncle Bill became the uncle I visited with when Mom and I took her annual trip to Sugar Mountain. Sometime during that trip, we’d meet up with her brothers for lunch. Bill was the oldest, then Bob who left us a few years ago, then Mom who we lost in 2014, and her younger brother, Wayne, the last surviving of the crew. The four of them together were an absolute hoot.

During these gatherings I heard stories about Uncle Bill’s flying antics (he had his pilot’s license), tales about their childhood escapades, and how Uncle Bill loved to goad Mom into an argument when they were young. He confessed that when she was attending Limestone College, he came along for the ride to pick her up for a weekend break. Within minutes, he’d picked an argument with her. As soon as he had her spitting mad, he sat back with a proud smile and announced that his job was done.

Here’s a video I shot in 2009 during one of those lunches. From left to right, Bob, Wayne, Mom (Babs), and Bill (apologies for the poor quality):

Bill was a softy, too. I don’t know how many times he called me because he was missing my dad or mom and just wanted to tell me how wonderful they were. He and his brothers came down to see mom and dad when my parents’ health declined. He was there the day my dad passed away. He was the first person who got a real reaction out of my mom when she was in the hospital after the fall that started the decline in her health.

Every time he spoke to me in the last few years, he told me I had his favorite name. His wife, who passed away in 1992, and my mother were both named Barbara.

So, yesterday, I gathered with family and his friends to say goodbye. It’s unreal he’s gone, but I’m so glad I came to know him better as an adult. I wonder if he’s picked an argument with Mom in heaven yet?

 

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