Last night we got the phone call that I was dreading.
My Uncle Ron was in declining health for some time. The diabetes that robbed him of his sight was finding other areas disrupt. I won't elaborate on some of the things that were going on but suffice to say his health was deteriorating.
Last night my dad called from his cell phone. Dad rarely uses his cell phone. The only times that he uses his cell phone are if he's in the driveway or if they're out and about and he needs to get a hold of me.
We had just gotten back from a trip and called my parents to talk about our trip and about Pixel's progress. Dad was unlikely to be out and about in that short amount of time.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"Not good" he replied. "Uncle Ron passed away."
The phone call that I had been dreading was finally here. Even so I was still hoping it would still be in the nebulous future. In some ways I still am.
Uncle Ron married my Aunt Sally (my mother's sister) 53 years ago. My parents got married shortly thereafter. My mom and aunt are close in age and keep in constant contact, so my dad and uncle followed suit. My earliest memories are of my aunt and uncle being over our house, and of us going to their house. I grew up with my cousins, and though we're not in constant contact we're still relatively close.
It's hard to describe my uncle without resorting to a familiar archetype. Int he sitcom "All in the Family" there's the character of Archie Bunker (played by Caroll O'Conner). One of Archie's most famous idiosyncrasies is that nobody sits in his chair. My uncle also had a recliner for which nobody else was able to sit in. That was his chair, with its wooden armrests and reddish-brown cloth. Even when the chair was later retired he still had his own chair. In this chair I remember him watching On TV (one of the first subscription TV services) along with cable TV (when it came out) and more. When I was younger he was gruff and firm, but also fair. He didn't suffer whiners and more than a few times I was witness to a supplication of one of my cousins getting taken apart by a simple "I don't care".
He was also funny, with plenty of jokes at the ready (many of which I couldn't repeat). He loved to laugh and enjoy the finer things in life. His was the first deep fried turkey that I ever tasted, and he introduced JoDee and I to Irish Whiskey.
He was also not one to settle. He started his career as a security guard at a community college, and later retired as the registrar. He took classes and educated himself.
I remember many conversations with him where we talked politics or the state of the world. We might not have agreed on everything but I enjoyed every conversation we had.
There's more that I could tell, and maybe I will in future posts, but for now I grieve the first uncle I knew, and the one for whom the bar was set high.
Thank you, Uncle Ron, for everything.