As I write this he is still here.
The question, the only question now, is…for how long?
I doubt it will be days.
Then he will be gone.
I’m not sad.
I will cry and I will feel the dull ache of his passing but I won’t be sad.
The knowledge that I won’t ever be beside him again, that I won’t hear his voice, that I won’t laugh at some moment of madness or other will hurt but I won’t be sad.
When I was a little boy my grandparents lived in the house where he and my father had been brought up. We used to visit regularly. The sun was always shining, because it was the past, and that meant that we would make our way down to the garden to play football…me, my brothers and him. He was a fine footballer and, as a younger man, he could have turned pro but nerves and a lack of belief stopped him from taking his chance.
Upstairs in the sitting room he would make everyone laugh with jokes, anecdotes and tall tales that flew over the head of someone as young as I was but I still laughed…often he would laugh so hard at his own stories that he would cry, lose his breath and it was that which made me laugh.
He used to impersonate a telephone…his lips loose against each other, blowing a sort of raspberry and making a “breep breep” noise at the same moment. I couldn’t work out how he was doing it. It sounded exactly like a telephone. Every time I saw him I asked him to do it…again…and again…and again. He always did.
Then he took his family to Australia for a new life.
I was heartbroken.
His wife, my beautiful Aunty, was gone.
She was as mad as he was.
Full of laughter and nonsense…and warmth, heart and kindness.
My cousins were gone.
I didn’t think I would ever see them again.
Then they came back to visit and, like all of the best people, things were exactly the same. He did the telephone thing, he did his funny voices, he laughed, teased my Aunt and cried at his own madness. I remember us all being gathered at my grandparents house and the kids being shuffled off to a back bedroom with a television set and an industrial quantity of crisps and chocolate. It felt good to be with my cousins again, felt great to hear everyone laughing…and at the centre of it all was him.
In 2007 I went to Australia and spent a week with them all. At that point he had developed an obsession with Sacha Baron Cohen’s creation “Borat” and spent the bulk of the week “doing” Borat. It shouldn’t have been as funny as it was. It should have become irritating…but it didn’t because he was taking so much joy and pleasure from it. It was my birthday during that visit and the fuss he made, the fuss they all made, over me was overwhelming.
When he wasn’t doing Borat he was regaling me with tales of his father, my granddad, from his infrequent visits to Australia. He described how he broke wind, with alarming ferocity, while playing golf with his boss in attendance. “Dad” he chided him “You’ve got to stop doing that.” to which my granddad replied “You need to relax, it’s just a bloody fart.” Before he got to that he was crying with laughter as he remembered.
In recent years his wife was diagnosed with Dementia. A cruel, devastating, destructive disease that steals a person from those who love them most. He decided that he needed to bring her back to Scotland for one last visit before such a visit would be impossible. Everything was the same…he made gentle fun of my Aunt and her inability to remember things, teasing her with love and sadness in his eyes. He did the telephone thing. He did his Borat. He cried with laughter at his own madness.
When that visit was over I felt sure it would be the last time I would ever see my Aunt.
Now it will be the last time I saw him.
A massive heart attack has put him in a coma.
Life support has been withdrawn and now we are waiting.
Waiting for him to pass.
I said I wouldn’t be sad.
I’m crying as I write this.
I am sad.
I want to hear the telephone thing one more time.
I want him to do his Borat.
I want him to tease me.
I want to hear him laugh.
I want to tell him I love him.
I am sad.
It will pass and soon enough I will laugh as I remember the good times again.
He lived a good life.
Full of high jinx and nonsense.
He loved his wife.
He raised two exceptional children.
He was the best Uncle a boy could dream of, like someone from a book…larger than life, better than real.
He worked hard and he played hard.
I won’t ever be able to speak of him in the past tense…I love him today just as I loved him yesterday and, when he is gone, I will love him just the same.
I lost my faith a long time ago but I hope there is a God because, if there is, he is about to welcome into His presence a man who will make him laugh and who will amaze him with his impersonation of a telephone.
And as I prepare to publish…
He is gone.