I am sitting in a truckstop in Greenville, VA. I'm not in Nelson County but I've never been closer. My uncle, Bob, lived there when he died. I can't say he was my favorite uncle; I have another who has done so much for me. However, from an early age, it was obvious he was a kindred spirit. He was Bob #2 in a family of at least four.
Bob was a free lance photographer. According to family legend, he did many covers for Stereo Review magazine. Bob and his family lived in New Jersey. I can remember a big tree in the backyard and some furniture made out of small barrels. Some time in the 1970's, Bob packed it all in and moved the family to a farmhouse in western Massachusetts where they lived off the land.
They sold chickens and rabbits to pay their property taxes. It was a big old farmhouse with a slate roof. I can still see the big garden, the barn and the yard. There was a big old pool table in a parlour off the living room. I ate cereal or oatmeal with milk still warm from the cow. We didn't have chicken one night; we had rooster! There is Uncle Bob sitting in the living room blowing smoke rings.
I remember playing pool downstairs at my other Uncle Bob's; #4. #2 and I played and talked for a long time. I was living in the basement at the time as I had just moved to the Detroit area. Another time, I was helping him grill snapper behind Grandma and Grandpa's Nokomis house. Uncle Bob showed me how the best part of the fish was the skin that peeled off as it grilled. While everyone else was waiting for grilled fish, we were eating fish skin like potato chips right off the filets.
When I started a business in Florida, I also went through a streak of empty headed conservative politics. I was rabid. We had a salesman working for us who was the only dyed-in-the-wool socialist I've ever met. His name was Ron something. I can't remember his last name for the life of me. Uncle Bob was in Nelson County, living with his ex-wife [something else we have in common] when he sent me a card and took a little jab at my politics. This was at the peak of the Clintons' Whitewater mess. I wrote back the worst, most immature, vitriolic letter. It began in the same fun his card was but quickly devolved into a mess. It must have hit him like a roundhouse slap.
When Uncle Bob got sick, I had just started a job in Sturgis, MI. Mom and Dad, Aunt Chris and Uncle Bob and Grandma and Grandpa went down to see him. As I waited for news on his condition and wrangled for some time off, he was gone. I have very few regrets in my life, but that letter is an open debt. I never had the chance to look him in the eye and talk to him. He probably would have told me to forget the apology. If we had talked, he would have known without me saying. We are still kindred spirits. I almost wish that I could believe in some way that he could be looking down on me; knowing that I am living my own life inspired by his. That is a salve I cannot afford.
If you have something to tell someone; especially someone you don't get to talk to often DO IT NOW! Just pick up the phone and do it. Uncle Bob always called at Christmas, I know that I was passed the phone. Just maybe, he could hear in my voice that I wasn't the guy in that letter. Maybe, but wouldn't it be nice if I had said it out loud.
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