Monday, October 6, 2008
My uncle Dave
This is my uncle Dave. It's 1978, and he's at my grandparents' house on Lake Chickamauga opening Christmas presents.
I can hear him right now, as he rips open the paper. "Oh," he might say in his soft, expressive voice. "What's this? Oh my! Well, thankyouverymuch!" Uncle Dave was always understated. He had a low, ready laugh. He talked quickly, and usually quietly.
Every Christmas I looked forward to my present from Uncle Dave. He always got something unusual -- something a little exotic, usually with no practical purpose. I could never predict his presents. They were always a total surprise. I treasured them for their complete lack of utility.
Uncle Dave was my father's younger brother, the second of three boys. He studied music and became a renowned and accomplished pipe organist. He was the first in my father's family to get a Ph.D.
Uncle Dave was gay. Nobody in the family talked about it. I don't know anything about his relationships. I have vague memories of hearing my parents talk about his roommate. Of course I didn't understand anything about it until I was well into adulthood.
My uncle Dave died on Saturday, of complications brought on after a fall. I hadn't seen him in many, many years. I hope that for all those years of our separation he lived as I remember him: a world traveler, an effortless artist, a keeper of rare and unusual gifts.