On Wednesday of last week, my Uncle Clyde passed away. For the last five years, he has been on his own since my aunt died, and last year my oldest cousin (his eldest son) passed away suddenly. Needless to say he slowly slipped away over this time.
As a child, I remember him as a large imposing figure. He and my aunt and their three boys lived in the house that my mother and aunt grew up in. It was an old rambling house with many rooms and had a good amount of land. I loved going up there for family get-togethers such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. My uncle, who was a OBGYN, had a very strong personality with a quick temper, which was well feared by the nurses he worked with. Once such example of his infamous temper occured one Christmas when I was a child. Uncle Clyde had been given an electric knife, and my aunt had cooked a turkey which looked all brown and beautiful when she pulled it out of the over. However, she had forgotten to thaw the bird before cooking it and when my uncle tried to cut a piece, the knife siezed in the frozen flesh below the skin. In a fit of anger, he flung open the back door and hurled the turkey, knife and all, into the snow. At the tender age of 6 or 7 I was stunned and ran into the livingroom to announce what had happened to my mother and all the guests. I remember a large commotion as everyone jumped up and ran into the kitchen to help fix the situation. My uncle jokingly gave me a hard time for "telling on him".
My uncle an accomplished woodworker, welder, electronics technician, potter, silversmith, skeet marksman, and auto mechanic to name just some of his talents.. For my 21st birthday he made me hammered silver cuff bracelet, which I occasionally wear. In his apartment at the retirement village, there are many pieces of furniture that he made that are indistinquishable from pieces one would see in a furniture shop. His artistry with wood is well known in the family and everyone considers themselves very lucky to have a piece crafted by him. He also loved St Bernard dogs and had several as the years went by. I always get a chuckle when I see one photograph of him dressed in a knight costume for Halloween with one of the dogs, which was displayed in the livingroom at their house.
Since my aunt died about 8 years ago, my uncle has lost some of the vigor he exhibited. I don't know if it was a result of old age or the realization of his own mortality. He still "told it like it was", but his inner light was somewhat faded. He did get quite ill with cancer, which he beat to some extent, but then last year when his oldest son died, he really began to go downhill. I can only imagine the anguish that caused and I can understand that his whole purpose for living would take a huge hit. My oldest cousin was the most vibrant of the three boys and made such a difference in his community that it was not only my uncle who lost something that day. In the last few months his decline was swift and his death was really a blessing to ease his suffering. His ashes will be buried Saturday with a memorial service to follow.