This weekend my dear Uncle suddenly left this world. It was quite a shock to everyone and I am really not dealing with it very well. I am no stranger to death, but losing people does not seem to be something that you get better at. No matter what, it is a process. A process that is different for everyone.
My uncle was, among many things, a teacher and principal. For this, he has touched many many lives. But this is not the context in which I know him. I'll always remember him being funny, clowning around and making us laugh. I spent weeks at a time at their home in Detroit and I can't ever remember a time with him being angry. He raised, with his wife, three wonderful daughters who I feel are more my sisters than my cousins. Besides as an uncle the roles I knew him in are father, husband, brother and son. He was an incredible family man.
He brought me to my first Tiger game as a small child. I remember walking into Tiger stadium with him with my hands already full of treats. He never skimped on those! I remember the giant field and how much he LOVED baseball. I recall being very sleepy and slightly nauseous by the end of that evening.
He was a man of patience. I don't know if I could drive four young girls to Florida in a station wagon in August! Only to spend a few weeks in Florida and turn around and drive back.
He had an amazing energy. He was always thrilled to see you and give you a hug and kiss. He was a very warm person. I remember his freezer being stocked with toasted almond bars in the summer from the ice cream man. He would buy a bunch and throw them in there for later. On those summer days I think of him as we were waiting for him to finish cleaning out the pool so we could all jump in and play.
I remember going to baseball card shows and staying at the Troy Hilton with them while he sold his collections and bought more from others. He was an avid collector of memorabilia.
He always had a sporting event on TV and our common love of Michigan State was very strong. This is where he went to college and met his love. This is where I went to college and stayed with my love and settled down and got married. They loved to come and visit and drive around our beautiful campus and go to the river to feed the ducks.
He had an incredible memory for facts and statistics. It seemed to me that he knew every answer in Trivial Pursuit! His facts of the presidents are one of the bonds he had with my children. He and Zachary would run through them together and then when he told Zachary he could list them backwards, Zachary was determined to learn that too. He had just sent the message to Zachary that Obama had the distinction of being the 4th president with the same double digits. Number 44. That only 11, 22, and 33 also had this honor. They could both tell you the names of those presidents, but not me! Just Friday when we listened to the Happy Birthday song on our voice mail being sung for Zachary from them Zachary turned to me with a smile and said, "I can hear Uncle Tom singing Zachary Taylor for my name". I can't believe that was just on Friday. Daniel does not really understand. He simply asked if Uncle Tom was in heaven and then he asked if Aunt Judy was still alive. I assured him she was. He can't process any of this beyond that.
Uncle Tom was determined to break Zachary's record number of fish caught at Beckie's cabin. He did, and was sure to tell him! He was always joyful, friendly and loving. A wonderful example of a family man that we were all lucky to have as a role model. I am still stunned by his sudden departure from our lives. I can't imagine him not being here to greet us. I loved him very much. I am still trying to find reassurance that he is with us in spirit and watching us. I hope that next summer when Zachary's catching fish that Uncle Tom will be light over his shoulder helping him reel in the biggest one in the lake and gently whispering in his ear congratulations on a job well done.