I heard on a local NPR program that there is going to be a huge Mexican community celebration of the Day of the Dead in Sacramento this weekend. I do not know the Spanish for the event so not sure if it translates perfectly. The woman describing it talked about booths and family gatherings. They will choose one particular person to remember, bring that person’s favorite food and eat with them and talk about them and to them and tell family stories. It sounds delightful. The interviewer asked her whom she had chosen to remember this year and I thought, what a good question.
Who would I like to remember and talk about this year? My Uncle Bill.
Uncle Bill was a favorite. When we would visit my mom’s North Carolina family, I would wait eagerly for Uncle Bill to return from work so I could follow him down the hill to “help” him work in his garden. He grew corn, tomatoes, beans and I am sure other vegetables. I loved helping. When little I sometimes became tired of eating them over and over again.
He had a corner in the living that included his big comfortable chair, his radio on a shelf on one side of the chair and a lamp and books and papers on the other. I loved to sit on his lap and be told stories or listen to the radio even when it was a program I didn’t really understand - like the news when I was very young.
When I was ready to hop down and move on, Uncle Bill would always say, “I’ll see you in the funny papers” and I would laugh and laugh. That was the funniest thing I had ever heard, even if I had just heard it a few hours before.
When Uncle Bill had to move to a retirement home, I visited him whenever I could. He was blind and deaf and he never lost his zest for life or his sense of humor. We were walking down the hall to lunch one day and as a woman approached us, he introduced me. As we moved on, I asked him how he knew who it was. “She wears a very distinctive perfume,” he replied.
Uncle Bill and my father died within hours of each other on the same day. Two very special men in my life whom it is fun to remember with love.