Yesterday, after a long, sad illness, my Uncle Tom passed. He went to sleep and didn't wake up. A good way to go, if there is such a thing.
When I got the news, I cried a little, but for the most part, I was glad he wasn't suffering any longer. And angry that he suffered at all.
Tom was an active man his whole life (or the part I knew him). He'd take off fishing for "2 or 3 days" and be gone a week. My Aunty Dawn refused to worry. He'd either be alright, or he'd drop doing what he loved. And then he'd come home, announcing that "I'm back. Bet you thought you'd got rid of me this time!" before retreating to the shed to make more flies, or paint something that had taken his fancy. He was a talented fly-fisherman, and an equally talented artist.
3 triple bypasses didn't slow him down much either. Diabetes was what stalled him in the end. And he hated it. He had to give up drinking, smoking (he loved a pipe in the evening), and lollies. Well, he kept the lollies. Right to the end, he loved Clinkers and Jubes.
He loved my aunt with all his heart, and that feeling was returned. He was her world, and she was a very big part of his - he really started to go downhill when she died the year after my Dad. He sold the caravan that they had spent 30+ years travelling the country in, and retreated into a twilight world.
It was horrible to see this, and not be able to do anything. This was a man who had packed a whole lot of living into his years, as a rail worker in the US, back when Northern Nevada was just a dust bowl (his words when he found we were travelling there), and as a submariner in WWII. He ran away from home, and put his age up to join the Navy when he was a young lad, in between the wars. He lived life to the full, found a great love, and had it returned in kind. He had no regrets about the life he lived - he made the msot of every oportunity. At the end, he knew he was loved, and that he mattered to someone. We should all be so lucky.
So, why this rambling post about Uncle Tom? Because with his passing, I am letting go a large part of my past.
Dawn was my Dad's favourite sister (she and Aunty Bette essentially raised him while Nanna nursed Pop through the living death that was Parkinson's Disease in the 40's and 50's) and Dawn and Tom were a big part of my childhood. Every summer, they'd land at Nanna's for a few weeks, parking the caravan on the lawn. They'd spoil us rotten, taking us to Quiet Corner, or the Shell Cave, or walking along the beach to the shop for a (normally forbidden) Choc Wedge. Memories of summers past aren't complete without cricket on the lawn, and Dawn and Tom.
So now, I must move on. With Tom's passing, my last connection to those days is gone. And it's hard to do. I know I can't go back, and I really don't want to - but I don't want to let go either.