I was away when my cousin was kind enough to phone me about the sad news but I had to write about it…will add photos when I get back home.
He was a father and a friend, a comforter and a teacher but most of all he was my protector since I was a very young child.
I grew up looking up to this handsome “James Dean” lookalike. I followed him everywhere when I could even when he was with his girlfriends. One winter night, it was a full moon and he decided to go out skating with his new girlfriend on the river behind the house. They both invited me to join them. How naïve I was to follow these two lovers but I did and I loved them both even more for it.
One Father’s Day, my sister and I bought him a necktie. He looked so shy and awkward and all he could say was, “But I’m not your father.” That year my parents had temporarily separated, so what did we know, right? Thinking about that now, it must have been odd for a 17 yr old to be looked up to as a father! Ah, kids!
I remember when I was very young before I went to school, my mother punished me for being rude and impatient with my GrandPapa. I responded to him just like my father used to talk to me when he was impatient. My mother probably knew where this was coming from and wanted me to learn that it was not acceptable. She sent me to my uncle’s bedroom to sit there until she felt I had learned. As I was walking to the bedroom, I still remember seeing my GrandPapa rocking in his chair in the living room and smiling at me. I knew then, he had forgiven me.
I sat on my Uncle Bernie’s bed and cried. I did not like being shut in and of course, I just felt sorry for little old me! My uncle came in and sat on the bed next to me and looked so uncomfortable seeing me cry. He offered me a WHOLE dime to stop crying! Now you have to understand that a dime bought a lot for a child my age! I could get a bag of chips and five gum balls!
I remember watching him from the kitchen at GrandMaman’s when he would be getting ready to go out…probably on a date. He smelled so good of Old Spice! My grandmother and he would argue like mothers sometimes do with their older teenager. He must have been about 19 because GrandPapa had already died. Poor Bernie, having lost his father so young. GrandPapa was the best father and grandfather on the planet…no, really!
I remember when I was still quite young and my uncle had seen me trying to take a cigarette from GrandMaman’s pack. I was only about 6! I know, how bad is that?! I loved the smell of fresh tobacco and especially the scent of pipe tobacco. (Uncle Bernie would add a piece of apple in his tobacco pouch to keep it moist but I think it also gave it that nice aroma too.} Anyway, Bernie, lit a cigarette and blew smoke on a tissue to show me the colour it turned into and warned me that that was what would happen to my lungs if ever I smoked. I knew he was worried for me. Yeah, well I did still smoke eventually for three decades. And every time he saw me as an adult, he would say, “You are still smoking…you know it’s not in style anymore, right?”
I remember his wedding so well. I was 14 years old. I had just become a woman that morning (and you ladies all know what that means). I felt so grown-up that day! Later, when I was 17, his wife, Denise and he asked me to be the baby carrier for their first born, Annie’s christening. I felt so proud. I used to babysit Annie since I lived next door at GrandMaman’s. Aunt Denise would ask me what I wanted to get paid for babysitting and I said, a bottle of Pepsi and BBQ chips was fine with me. I would sleep in Annie’s bedroom next to her crib and I loved being awakened by her smiles and cooing. That was the first time I experienced what it was like to wake up with a beautiful baby.
That same year I got engaged. I know, so young and my family were not too pleased but Uncle Bernie and Aunt Denise bought me my first set of sheets for our engagement that Christmas. I felt I had bonded with my Aunt Denise, that year.
Uncle Bernie walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. I felt so proud having him by my side. My legs kept shaking and he kept whispering to me to calm down. It helped, since I was just fine by the time I got to the altar but my husband was the one who seemed dumbstruck.
That year he taught me how to drive. My husband tired but that always ended in tears since he would get too impatient. Uncle Bernie trusted me and I know I did not drive that well but he gave me the impression I was fine. I finally got my license when I was 20.
One spring day my car stalled on a country road. There were no cell phones then. I remember walking to a house nearby and calling him to tell me what I should do. He came over and got on the wet cold ground and temporarily fixed what was wrong (I still have no clue what it was) and told me to go see his friend who was a mechanic, who had a garage, to have it fixed right away. What did I tell you? He was my protector!
A few years later I moved just a half hour away but I would see him less and less by then…life went on, I guess and he was such a homebody. He welcomed everyone to his home but never accepted my dinner invitations. I understood though. My uncle was the type of person who was always used to giving.
When I would visit with my children, he would tell me to let them be kids and have fun. He had lots of property at his home and he noticed that I worried too much. My kids…well, especially, my son, loved the freedom running around there. And we all loved Aunt Denise’s fudge. We would call her to say we were coming over and she would have the fresh warm fudge ready by the time we got there!
Time went by…life happened all too quickly and I moved six hours away. I was lucky to see him when I came down to see my mother. He always checked up on her to see if she was okay.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the same year my mother was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. It was sad to see him when he visited my mom because he was surely seeing himself slip away eventually.
He passed just before Valentines, early morning on February 13, 2019.
May he rest In peace and tease my mom and all his siblings now. (Jan. 4 1940 – Feb. 13, 2019)
How he will be missed
Twinkling in the sky
His winning smile
A welcome committee
© Tournesol 19/02/17