When my Aunt Katy died, there was a terrible hole in my heart. She was a joyful fixture of my childhood and adolescence, and I still think of her often. Like most grief, the anguish and tears gave way to happy, though now-bittersweet, memories.
This weekend, my uncle, my mother’s oldest brother, passed away, leaving behind an amazingly tolerant wife and two adult children. I don’t know exactly what killed him, only that it had to do with his heart or perhaps diabetes or maybe both. And while I feel for the family he left behind, I’m not grief-stricken for his loss.
Because, you see, he didn’t like me, or at least that’s the impression he gave. He didn’t like me or my sister or my parents. And I feel strangely guilty in admitting that I didn’t like him much either. I understand, through third-hand accounts, that he changed his life in the past several years and was a different man. But my family never knew that different man; he was not part of our lives.
Like Aunt Katy, he was a fixture of my childhood – an angry, judgmental fixture. He enforced a code of silence among the children around him; “do not speak unless spoken to.” It is no surprise, then, that we never really knew one another. No surprise that I avoided him in favor of the company of his younger sister and brother.
I don’t know what this says about me, that I’m not mourning for a member of my family who is, or was, a virtual stranger to me. But I do know this: his wife and children knew someone else, and they are hurting. And I’m sorry they lost someone they loved.