I have two favourite uncles. Neither are blood related. Neither are your usual run of your mill type individuals. Both were English teachers. Both are eccentric.
I am in my 30’s and I could never bring myself to calling either one by their first name alone. Uncle Peter or ‘Uncle Pete’ as he is affectionately known, was the MC at my wedding. I am not sure why but I am always reminded of images of Sir Peter Ustinov playing Hercule Poirot somewhere in Egypt, on the Nile, when I think of him….. He is one-of-a-kind, animated, intelligent, with a deep, deep love of Sparkling Shiraz.
He has pulled me aside 3 times, since I got sick, to share his life advice with me. I cry each time.
I have spent every Christmas Eve at their house since I was born. It’s a German/Russian/Ukrainian thing. Vas and I grew up with his 3 sons (I was born on the same day as one and my brother was three days part from one other). Like with most of my parents friends, I was the only girl in their circle of children. But I don’t think this was ever really a factor in our life or upbringing.
The Christmas I got sick, Uncle Pete was scheduled to have a double knee replacement. As the night went on I began to tire quickly. That Christmas I was supposed to be pregnant. Instead I had just been released from hospital, was newly ‘child-less’ and had squeezed in my very first round of chemo. I had a new haircut, a new diet and what I thought was a new outlook.
He walked me to the car as I was leaving the house and said to me ‘You are like my own daughter and so I am giving all my strength to you’. I felt like there I was a volcano about to erupt in my chest. He needed this strength. Not me. How could I accept? This wall of emotion rose inside of me and I didn’t know what to do with it. I think I tried to graciously accept his offer (not something I have ever been good at!) but was so overcome I began to sob. I could no longer keep it together. And it is a theme that continues whenever he steals a quiet conversation with me.
The second piece of advice he shared with me was at my Mum and Dad’s house. He said that all you ever need is love. Nothing more, nothing less. That is it. I did feel like I was at a John and Yoko sit-in for a second, as his comment caught me by surprise but his words have remained with me as I desperately try to embody this life philosophy. Love is the only thing we come into this world with and hopefully it is the only thing we leave with. If I could feel it every day, especially at the moment. Things would be easy. Well, easier….
And finally yesterday, while we sat together briefly at my grandmother’s funeral, I found out he has written three poems for me. One of which is only three lines long. He recited it to me. O oh, here comes the volcano. It’s starting to move in my chest again. I felt like I might burst.
You see, I jokingly blame Uncle Pete for introducing William Blake to my Dad. I know the importance of the English language to him. So for someone, anyone to write a poem for me. Let alone three. Is a great honour.
He told me that it was a culmination of his 64 years of work.
Three. Simple. Beautiful. Heart-breaking lines.
I imagined him creating them. I thought about why he had written them. Just for me. This beautiful gesture has touched my soul so deeply, that I can’t put it into words.