Wednesday, 25 January 2012

My Uncle Chong

I had a crazy Uncle Leigh.  Well, he wasn't really "crazy", as much as he was, um, high

Uncle Leigh, my mom's brother, was a bit of a nomad.  From what I hear, he took off from the family at a young age and travelled around North America pursuing a relatively lucrative career of importing and exporting

He ran into trouble now and then, and he had to take advantage of seek help from the family on a few occasions.  But generally, he kept his distance.  He got married and had two kids, and then eventually found himself alone again. 

As the years passed, he set up a little apartment in a small town, became the building manager, ran an antique furniture refinishing shop out of the storefront below, befriended the kind blind neighbour, and took care of his beloved parakeet. 

This is how I knew him.  Making furniture, smoking dope, and talking to his bird. 

Uncle Leigh wasn't perfect.  However, we learned to accept him for who he was.  We left him alone.  Sometimes we saw his kids, and then their sweet kids after them (my first cousins, once removed, for you ancestry freaks out there).  But that was it. 

Until he got cancer.  Throat cancer of course, given all the smoking.  So Momma and I started visiting more often.  Just a few minutes now and then, but plenty of time - time for me to get to know him. 

As it turns out, Uncle Leigh was friggin awesome.  He was funny, he was honest, he was straightforward, he was genuine.  Just like Momma and her siblings.  Just like all of us. 

So I took this time to ask him questions. 

What was his best story? Well, he was driving somewhere in the southern US, and somehow convinced the cops to not inspect the red convertible that was so obviously not suited for a "roughneck like him".

Did he have any regrets?  Nope.  He lived his life his way.  Sure, he wished some of it had turned out differently, but he tried to make up for some of that now, and otherwise he didn't dwell on it. 

What was the worst part? Well, imagine being radiated to shit until you couldn't produce any saliva, and therefore had to survive on Boost. Boost and pot. Imagine how much time you'd have if you didn't have to shop for, prepare, cook, or clean up food. Imagine if the only way anyone knew how to socialize was to 'go out to eat'.  ...Well, you'd have a LOT of lonely time on your hands, wouldn't you?   Luckily, you could still smoke marijuana. Especially when you had cancer, because even your straight-edge niece can't possibly say 'no' when you ask her if you can light up.

What will he do with his remaining time?  He'll buy a bright yellow sports car and plan one last big road trip, even if he never drives it.  He'll get a pardon and get his European citizenship restored.  He'll show off his new medical marijuana license to his buddies.  He'll play with his grand kids.  And talk to his bird. 

And when I come visit, he'll hug me and call me sweetie; he'll show me pictures of his grandchildren; he'll give me an antique wedding gift from his shop; he'll laugh his gravelly laugh; and he'll make me smile

And when he dies, he'll harbour no anger.  He'll not much care how it all turns out.  He'll ask nothing of anyone.  Except to be cremated with his already-dead bird that he sat on top of last year, and to be saved in a nice wooden box on someone's mantel. 

Sure Leigh.  We can do that. 
xo

11 comments:

  1. This was really good, Marianna. Really good.

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  2. THANKS for reminding me of these great qualities. Yesterday I was wondering what his legacy was. Sometimes it's hard to see the light in the darkness of a hospital room, especially throughout the long night. True to Leigh's own self, he waited until I left to depart because... He "left his life the same way he lived it - IN HIS OWN DAMN WAY!!!! I shouldn't have have expected anything less.

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  3. What a beautiful post. It sounds like he is an awesome guy.

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  4. I couldn't help but tear up when reading this post. You did a excellent job of expressing your feelings & letting us into your world to know who he was, which by the sound of it, was an amazingly interesting person.

    To be honest, the way you described your uncle Leigh reminds me a lot of my FIL. My husband & I are always telling people that if you ever want to know what he's like all you have to do is simply look up a picture of Tommy Chong, haha. As much as I once hated to admit this, my husband will most likely also be apart of this 'Chong'-like gang as he gets older & I'll love him just the same :)

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  5. I couldn't help but tear up when reading this post. You did a excellent job of expressing your feelings & letting us into your world to know who he was, which by the sound of it, was an amazingly interesting person.

    To be honest, the way you described your uncle Leigh reminds me a lot of my FIL. My husband & I are always telling people that if you ever want to know what he's like all you have to do is simply look up a picture of Tommy Chong, haha. As much as I once hated to admit this, my husband will most likely also be apart of this 'Chong'-like gang as he gets older & I'll love him just the same :)

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  6. Awww what a sweet post! He sounds very cool.

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  7. beautifully written. I feel as though I know him now too. *hugs*

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  8. Aw! I think he'd be really happy that you've sorta immortalized him on your blog. Meaning something to others in the end is really all most people want.
    I'm glad you got to know him and shared a little of him with us.

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  9. Beautifully written. He sounds like a very interesting man who lived his life to the fullest :)

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  10. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this and introducing us to a wonderfully interesting man :)

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  11. Thank you guys so much. I'm sorry Leigh's gone now, but I'm glad I got to know him. He was certainly "interesting".

    I'm leaving for my holiday today - and Uncle Leigh would have wanted me to make some damn good memories - so I shall!

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