And here come all the thoughts and memories, followed by the tightening in that little space in the middle of my chest. And I feel so far away from her right now, so small in this big world.
How do I write this? How do I share all the memories of my Uncle and explain how they run through my head like a movie?
The reality comes in waves. I got the horrible news on Monday morning from my very calm and collected Aunt, and immediately starting researching flights. And when I settled on the flight that would get me to Connecticut the earliest, I figured my Uncle could pick me up. Then reality reminded me why I was going there.
And I think of his crazy driving (he was a New Yorker after all), which leads to the trip we took to Boston where he drove in circles trying to find a way out, and then the time he drove us all down to NYC and we walked around the new MOMA (the boys bonded over motorcycles), and all that coffee he drank from Dunkin' Donuts, and the last conversation we had a couple weeks ago. I had talked with my Aunt so much that there wasn't time to catch up with him, and we agreed that 'next time' we would talk longer...
He wasn't old, or out of shape, and had even quit smoking again. I didn't worry about him - why would I? He was larger than life, and the guy who got things done. Besides, he and my Aunt had retirement plans! Just a bit longer, and they could live on their boat.
When I called my Aunt, I already knew - I had gotten an email from Uncle John's sister telling me to call my Aunt. And yet I still said to her "no, that isn't true, you're lying" when she gave me the news. I may have yelled it.
How do I sum up his life in a blog post? The (almost) 30 years of marriage (which brings up the stories of his color-blindness and the brown suit he wore on his wedding day); the link he was between my mother and my father after their divorce; the link he was between me and my father through years of estrangement, and even after his death just a few months ago; the way he tried to protect my Aunt's 'innocence' (I had to explain the difference between speedballing and snowballing).
And so all these memories and thoughts have been swirling around in my head. When I got home, I saw that my brother, my brother-in-law, and our friend Viraj had all written posts about the 4th of July. I used to re-evaluate my life each year on the 1st of January and the 4th of July. I'd take stock and try to make a note of where I was and what I was doing.
And suddenly, there I was, in Connecticut, on some random road with my Aunt and Uncle. Standing in the dark, surrounded by tiny biting bugs and watching some local fireworks. I remember how happy I was then, and the distinct thought of making sure I would tuck that day away in the spot reserved for cherished memories. If I thought a bit harder, and perhaps did some math, I could even tell you what year it was.
I don't know how to wrap this up with a tidy little bow, so I will just share some of my favorite pictures -