My headphones are on. Not because I’m listening to music but rather to block out the world, shut off the senses. I want to only hear my memories, only see my Uncle standing before me with his tender smile and soft sunkissed hair. Hear his sweet Southern drawl, the kind you could listen to for hours, more music than talking. I want to remember him as I did when I was a young girl, as I saw him a short while ago.
I remember the way he smelled. The scent still lingers with me like something pulled fresh from the oven, strong and intoxicating. The smell was fresh, like a cool shower, fragrant, the way you wish every man would smell, be it a lover, your father or in this case, your sweet Uncle Mark. I can still see the sun on his hair, golden streaks that were so gentle you couldn’t tell if they were laid by the hand of man or the Sun. His skin was tanned but only by nature. Spending long days in the Texas sun with friends and cold drinks. As he talks about the moments stretched under the heat, I can see it happening before my eyes. I see him turning his head in laughter, telling stories, engaging his friends and giving, always giving.
He is dressed well. He was always dressed well. And as his only niece, I appreciated the attention he put into making sure his niece was well dressed. It’s no secret that Uncle Mark’s gifts were my favorite. While he always purchased nice items, it had so much more to do with his taste. My Uncle has impeccable taste. I say has…because I’m still not so sure he gone. He understood the balance between a laid back Texas style and polished sophistication. Modest and kind, not a man to draw attention to himself selfishly, you couldn’t help but notice how handsome and put together he was. There is it….was. Is.
Aesthetics aside, as a young girl and grown adult, I was always taken by my Uncle’s spirit and personality. His kindness and gentleness was unmatchable in my eyes. I remember how sweet he was to me when I was so young and in Texas for the first time. So very far from home and in a strange place, Mark took me away from my discomfort and made me feel at home. Mark could tell stories. One had to be careful about when to call Uncle Mark because you could very well be on the phone for hours. Some would say I’ve inherited this trait. Its possible. But for all the words, all the stories, it was always executed from and spoken in kindness. He loved people and connecting to people. Especially later in life, as those in the family moved on, my Uncle would savor every moment he could with you. When I was with Uncle Mark, I felt I was the only girl in the world. He made me feel special. As a little girl, growing through to a young lady and now, as an adult. He was warm and inviting, unassuming and incredibly kind. Always kind.
As many friends as I am sure my Uncle Mark had, I know that he was lonely. It was as if his heart, as big as it was, was painted a shade of blue. Behind the smile were tears in his eyes. This may upset some people but it is something that I love about my Uncle. Something that I suppose makes me just a bit like him. I always felt that he understood heartbreak, loneliness and struggle, which is why he was so unassuming of people’s challenges in life. He never felt sorry for himself. Or at least, that was my experience with him. His heart may have been a shade of blue but his smile shown brightly.
Generous. My Uncle Mark is probably the most generous man I know. He would never think twice about giving, anything. He was generous with his energy, his time, his word, his money and his heart. I don’t know if people took advantage of this in his life but I do know that I never told him how much I appreciated all that he gave me. How much comfort I had knowing that he was always there. No matter how long it had been, how far apart we were, I knew Uncle Mark would be there. On the telephone sharing stories, listening. In the mailbox with a card for my birthday, I don’t think he ever missed one. At a restaurant meeting my husband, charming us both and fighting us for the check – that was the only time we ever won. Mark wasn’t happy about that and insisted on sending us with what he called “gas” money. He made it impossible to resist.
I love you Uncle Mark. It saddens me that you are no longer with us. That I did not make more trips up to Dallas to see you, while I was living in Texas. That I did not call more often. Or write. Or make sure you had someone to take care of your dogs so you could come to our wedding. I didn’t ever share as much as you, but I will. I certainly will. For you. It saddens me that I’m not sure you know how much your niece loved you and admired your spirit. Did you know? Did you know that I love you so very much? That for me you were someone special? I suppose I’ll never know.
I didn’t talk with him every day or carry a mail bag along side of him. I didn’t watch his dogs or talk with him on the phone every week. But he was my Uncle and he showed me his heart and spirit in every moment we shared with one another, as he did so freely with those he loved.
People move in and out of our lives. The most we can hope for is that they understand and know our love for them, our admiration or respect. The most we can do is remember those sweet moments and carry them with us.