My uncle died last week after a long battle with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I flew to the midwest for his funeral and spent time with my aunt and my cousins. It was good to see everyone even though it was a very sad event. And I'm glad I had the chance to say good-bye.
When I was little, my uncle scared the shit out of me. He was physically imposing with a big, booming voice—and a tendency to yell. I thought he was always angry, and because I'm basically a self-centered person, I thought he was always angry with me.
It wasn't until fairly recently that I realized what a wonderful, warm-hearted person my uncle was. Shortly before my grandmother died, I flew out to visit her and stayed with my aunt and uncle. My aunt informed me one day that she had plans for the evening and my uncle would be taking me out to dinner. I was terrified. I couldn't imagine what we'd talk about. I figured we'd stare at each other or he'd start yelling at me. I tried to think of an excuse, but there was no avoiding it.
I needn't have worried. My uncle chose a beautiful restaurant with great food. We shared a bottle of wine and sampled each other's entrees. We talked about so many different things: his psychiatry practice, my crazy family, my husband, and my uncle's children (my cousins). We laughed and cried and actually enjoyed a real conversation.
I'm not sure exactly why I feel so bereft. It's not as if I've lost a parent or even someone I saw very often. But I miss my uncle. I wish I'd known him better.