In the midst of Florida’s preparation for Irma, my uncle died. His family hasn’t been able to hold a memorial; they’re all in the direct path of the storm, their time spent boarding up windows and buckling down. No time to mourn as the winds come crashing through. We’ll probably go there, once it all calms, but for now the living must delay honoring the dead.
A story has been on my mind since I spoke to my dad about it a few days ago. My uncle was the eldest, my father the youngest, two of three boys stuck in an abusive and angry home. My uncle, according to my dad, was more of a father figure than their own father.
One night, my uncle returned from boot camp and woke my sleeping father, presenting him with a toy he’d bought overseas. It’s one of my dad’s most cherished possessions, little blocks of wood that make up parts of a face, creating different emotions with the turn of a wrist: an angry eye here, a broad nose there, surprised eyebrows or a thick scowl. My dad still vividly remembers waking in the night, his strong brother in his room like a mirage.
My uncle is dead. He lived a long life, full of multiple marriages and adult children and big stories. Time, our brief lives here on this thin crust of Earth hurtling around the sun, is slippery and elusive, there and gone too fast. When did they get old? When did the children grow, have children of their own?
My uncle is dead, but to my dad he’s still there, still in that childhood bedroom, still in the dark with his brother.