My uncle Mark is 99 and nearing the end. It isn’t pretty; although cognitively aware, he’s overcome by the frailties of age and damage caused by a terrible fall last June. I haven’t seen him for a few years and know that he doesn’t want to be seen as he is, stuck in bed.
Kunkle, as I called him, was my mother’s older brother and I was born into this big love they had for one another. For the first 6 years of my life, he was the definition of avuncular, with a booming, fun spirit. He whisked me and my older brother around New York City, to his apartment, on a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty.
When I was 6, he married my aunt Nancy and their wedding was the pinnacle of my existence. I felt almost as glamorous as the bride in a new dress with a stick-out petticoat and strapless Mary Janes.
Soon enough there were a few kids. I loved my little cousins but I always felt a bit jilted. It was difficult to reconcile the Kunkle I had known with the regular person he seemed to have become. That distance increased with my adolescence and as Kunkle moved his family from New York to Florida to New Jersey and, finally, back to Florida. And then, with my mother’s illness and death when I was 20, there opened a fissure, a canyon that was impossible to cross.
After that, years went by between visits. But when I saw him, I was hungry. I not only saw so much of my mother in him, he was a link to my earliest, brightest memories. He would have none of it. It was gone. He could barely talk about her. “The past is past,” he’d say if I dared to probe, to remember. He’d ask about my family, my kids, my siblings, and I’d respond, but I couldn’t cross the chasm. With the past so firmly denied, I found it impossible to find him in the present.
On his 98th birthday I called him. “Bets! How are you?” he boomed. I smiled at the familiar pull caused by the sound of his voice, and sent him my love. #photostories #lovestories #familyhistorian #storiesmatter #parentsanniversary #anniversarycelebrations #anniversarygifts #weddingmemories #preservingmemories #personalgrowth #savefamilyphotos #retirement #retirementgift #yourlifestory #yourstorymatters #yourstory #familystories #memoir