It came as an immeasurably unwelcome surprise to me this day to find that I had lost a favorite uncle on Christmas morning. Not just a favorite uncle but ‘the’ favorite uncle.
For a host of reasons I am not a terribly family-oriented individual, but certain members of my extended family meant the world to me. He was one who did, perhaps more than others.
I’m not about to be morbid about his demise, despite the fact that 85 isn’t terribly ancient in the context of today. That notwithstanding, we get the span we’re allotted and cannot do much about it. In the case of my uncle I am not about to reveal all that much about his private life, out of respect for his family. What I will note here instead is what the man I called Hughie meant to me.
My recollections of Hugh go back to the virtual mists of time. Back when I was about 5 my parents (they were building their own house that ultimately was to become my childhood home) lived at my grandparents’ house. Hughie was in university at the time and he and I shared a bedroom and in that time we got to know each other rather well. I liked him. He was a young dude at the time and much more benevolent in his views of life than were my parents. He was fun. That was pretty neat in a guy who was almost a grownup but didn’t yet have cantankerous views of life. I don’t know if he was ever cantankerous. Never was when he and I interacted.
Anyway, I suspect it’s fair to use an overworked term and to suggest, we ‘bonded’ way back then. It was a bond that was to continue down through the years. We were even a bit similar in appearance. By the time I got to university I regarded him as something of an intellectual mentor. I might mention that he got married along the way and that his wife, my aunt, was a perfect fit and I loved her as much as I loved her husband. And between them they had four children and ultimately, grandchildren. In my teens I babysat their kids.
It must be said that in his life he done good, like a lot of children of the Depression. If my grandmother had been Jewish she would have been thrilled that her ‘baby’ (he was the youngest of seven) became a ‘doctah’. First a GP and then specialized and became a noteworthy pathologist.
He was always a good person to talk to because one could have a real conversation about ‘ideas’. He was a well-read fount of knowledge about many things far removed from his clinical calling so time in his company was always well-spent. Combine that with the fact he was generous and caring at virtually all times. My biggest regret now is that due to geographic considerations I did not get to spend more time in his company through the years.
And he and my Aunt Margaret were fun. My parents weren’t particularly fun, but it was great to have an aunt and uncle who were a joy to hang with.
The last time I saw them both was in the summer of 2001. It was their 50th wedding anniversary and I am very happy we took the pains to be in attendance. I had no idea I’d get no further chances to so do. Hugh and I spoke on the phone a few times over the years. He had plans a while ago to write a book on the practice of pathology with an aim to dispelling some of the myths that prevail in popular TV shows in terms of a pathologists real role. I don’t know if he progressed with the project but I was immensely flattered that he wondered if I would edit his manuscript should it come to pass.
Whatever the case, I only know I was shocked and saddened to hear the news this morning. I removed an important and I thought (which is damn foolishness) everpresent light from my life and of course from the lives of those around him.
He was a wonderful man to know and I shall miss him greatly. So much more than a mere uncle.
Photo is a scene of his beloved Galiano Island where my aunt and uncle had a residence.