Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Uncle Paul

When I wrote my update the other day, I intentionally omitted a significant fact - my Uncle Paul passed away in January - he lived a really long and great life but his passing has left a big void in my family's life. I wanted to write a post-eulogy for my uncle - and here it is:

Growing up, I didn't see too much of my uncle, nor my aunt and my 3 cousins - both of our families were in the military so we were all moving around to different places at different times - and ultimately, when both my dad and my uncle retired - we settled in different parts of the country - my family in California and my uncle's in Illinois.

I got to know Uncle Paul in a new and wonderful way when I spent a month one summer during high school at their home in Kansas City. My boyfriend had just died and so my parents sent me off to spend part of the summer with my cousins in K.C. I'm not sure they or I knew how to deal with this untimely and devastating situation. Anyway, besides spending time with my middle cousin, who was the same age as me, I had many an afternoon conversation with Uncle Paul, upon his return from wherever it was he was during the day. We would sit at the kitchen table and he'd be puffing away on one of his Chesterfield cigarettes and he'd opine about many a varied thing. He fascinated me beyond belief! Here was a man, not unlike my own father, but who seemed to know almost as MUCH as my father! How could that be?!!!

Then, there was the DeLorean. Did I spell that right? Uncle Paul had one of those "Back To The Future" cars!!! That was so awesome!! Score major points for the Uncle. My dad had a Toyota Crown station wagon......

As I grew up, and began raising my own child, over the years there were more, albeit shorter, visits "back east" to the Goldberg family. My uncle always had a good joke or two or seventy five to tell and I could always count on feeling better after spending just 5 minutes with him.

Perhaps my most treasured memory of my Uncle Paul was a moderately long car drive with him when I made a visit to Georgia about 10-12 years ago. My mom and I had flown to Georgia to visit some relatives and my aunt and uncle had met up with us. If I recall correctly, there were 2 cars and my aunt and mom were in one car, and I decided to ride with my uncle - we drove from Lyons to Augusta. It was probably the very first (and only) time I ever had 100% 1-on-1 time with him. We talked about many many things - nothing too terribly important, but he was relaxed and his jokester demeanor disappeared and I just had this amazing conversation and experience with him. What I discovered behind the man with the 1,000 jokes was a compassionate, caring, intelligent, introspective thinker. His command of the English language was astounding. He was like a freakin' walking dictionary! There wasn't a word he didn't know the meaning of. And you can believe I tested him! That car ride was one of the best, ever. I remember looking over at him sideways at one point, and thinking to myself - wow, this man, with his scratchy face with deeply etched lines is a portrait of a man with a lifetime of experiences who is sharing some of them with me. I felt really special, and really proud, to be his niece.

Rest in peace Unkie. I love you!

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