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
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.