Harold passed away yesterday morning, which I’d been anticipating for a few years. But it still seems unfair – as if certain people should live forever.
My earliest memory of him goes back to the summer I turned 13. He’d been in the airforce, so seldom seen. But here he was in our home, escorting my grandmother on her first visit since my grandfather had died. How like him to want to take care of her.
In those days – the ‘fabulous fifties’ – I was known as a ‘difficult teenager’. My parents had arranged for Harold and Grandma to take me out west. I was oblivious to the fact that they needed a break from me and my ‘emotionality’.
We travelled by car for three days, through the U.S. around the Great Lakes – a great adventure, to my mind. And thus I began to know ‘everyone’s favourite uncle’. He fuelled that trip with laughter and I am left with the memory of lightheartedness I seldom experienced in that phase. He mentioned once, casually, that I was pretty — as if it could be ‘casual’ to a young girl with a completely negative self-image. This was the emotional equivalent of winning a lottery, I suppose and I never forgot it.
Throughout my adult life, he would come and go, always warm, smart, witty, and open-minded. He was an important player in all family gatherings – especially the extended family reunion in Manitoba in ’92. He was the star, in a never-to-be-forgotten schoolbus ride around locations of family history, with his educational – and hilarious – commentary over a megaphone as he drove. I have video of that adventure, worth replaying occasionally, for the happiness it evokes.
By that time, he had been through a broken marriage, and the tragic accidental death of his only child. I was sure this would change him; but he remained the same uncle: caring, generous, open-minded, philosophical. I was so lucky to have him in my life from time to time, like spice, or a glass of great champagne. And there is a large group, and a whole new generation of relations, who would have loving stories of their own to add. I hope they will.
I imagine the world would be a better place, if everyone had an uncle like Harold.