LJ: how are you?
liferebootdotcom: I am ok. how are you?
LJ: I’m alright
liferebootdotcom: my Uncle Bob died. he’s not really my uncle, just a friend of my father’s — but he was closer to me than most of my real uncles
liferebootdotcom: he lived across the street from my parents’ house for longer than I’ve been alive
LJ: I’m sorry to hear that. 🙁
liferebootdotcom: I’m trying to find a bright side to this but I can’t
liferebootdotcom: it’s funny how people die all the time and you can be pretty indifferent to it
liferebootdotcom: and there are different levels of indifference. heath ledger died, and I don’t really care. when cassie’s grandmom got a phonecall and then passed on the news that some friend of her friend’s died, we (mostly indifferently) responded “that’s a shame”
liferebootdotcom: hell, even when the attacks on 9/11 occurred, I had problems understanding the realness of it because nobody I knew died
liferebootdotcom: but now Uncle Bob’s dead. 69 years old, from cancer
liferebootdotcom: started in the lung
liferebootdotcom: spread to the abdomen
liferebootdotcom: spread to the liver
liferebootdotcom: spread to his brain
liferebootdotcom: and killed him
LJ: death is always much more harsh seeming when it directly affects you
LJ: cancer is awful
LJ: the same thing happened to my grandmother
LJ: but I always tend to look at it this way:
LJ: I would rather be dead, then spend 20 years suffering form an illness with no chance of getting better
LJ: and it’s not that you should be indifferent
LJ: its just there is not much you can do
LJ: and with situations like that, death is usually a blessing
liferebootdotcom: my father agrees with you. said the same thing. described it as a blessing
liferebootdotcom: considering the suffering he experienced in the last years of his life, I can understand it being put that way
LJ: truth be told
LJ: feelings like that are never put to rest
LJ: we cover up grieving because its what we do
LJ: but it creeps up on you
LJ: and that is life
LJ: and this we accept.
LJ: I don’t know
LJ: I’m sorry that you are feeling hurt. It’s hard to tell people how to deal with it. it’s sort of something most people have to figure out on their own…
liferebootdotcom: I’m just trying to write something about it that’s real, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried writing
LJ: write the things you remember. write what you feel and don’t edit unless its grammatical.
My Uncle Bob liked to tell this one story about my older brother. It was years ago, when my brother Darren was really young. If I was even alive when it happened, I certainly have no recollection of the actual event. All I remember is the story Bob told us.
Bob was a skilled craftsman. When his wife couldn’t decide on a home to buy, Bob bought an empty lot and then built a house for her. If my father ever tried to build or repair something, Bob heard him working, walked across the street, took the tools right out of my father’s hands, and then showed him “the right way” to do it. Whenever I saw Bob going anywhere in his truck, he always had tools and raw materials stacked up in the back of it. It is for these reasons that the setting for Bob’s story comes as no surprise: Bob was on his roof.
While he was up there, undoubtedly working up a sweat in the afternoon sun, he heard a little voice:
“Uncle Bob? Uncle Bob, are you up there?”
Bob set down his tools and scooted toward the edge of the rooftop. He peered over the ledge to see Darren at the foot of his ladder, staring up at him expectantly.
“What are you doing over here Darren? Does your dad know where you are?”
Ignoring Bob’s concerns entirely, my brother asked “Is Aunt Janice home? The front door was locked.”
“No she isn’t. I’m up here working, so don’t be interrupting me unless it’s an emergency. Got it?”
He turned back to his tools, but Darren called after him.
“Uncle Bob! Uncle Bob wait!”
Bob, now annoyed, looked over the ledge a second time.
“Do you know when she’ll be back?”
“No, I don’t. Leave me alone so I can get my work done, okay?”
Bob turned to his tools again.
“Wait Uncle Bob, it’s an EMERGENCY!”
Slightly alarmed, he rushed to the top of the ladder and asked “What do you mean?”
“You have to come down here NOW! IT’S AN EMERGENCY!”
Bob’s feet fumbled to find the rungs as he raced down the ladder. Once his feet met the ground he spun around sharply, bent at his waist, set his hands on Darren’s shoulders and asked him “What is it? What’s wrong!?”
Darren looked up at him, smiled, and asked “Do you have any candy?”
Bob referred to my brother as “The kid who made me climb down off the roof because he wanted some candy” even after Darren had grown to be nearly 30 years old.
My next memory of Uncle Bob is when I was in third grade. I woke up for school, got undressed to shower, and turned on the water. When I reached my hand into the stream to feel its temperature, I noticed a bug was on my shoulder. Under normal circumstances, I would have just brushed it off — but since this bug was burrowed into my shoulder, I started screaming.
My father and Bob rushed from the kitchen breakfast nook to the upstairs bathroom in a matter of seconds. Once they managed to calm me down, they explained that it would be alright — it was only a tick.
Bob wanted to burn it with his cigarette immediately.
“It’ll let go and back right out, I bet.”
I don’t remember many details after that comment. I do remember that a hot washcloth compress didn’t make the tick back out. I also remember being too nervous to let Uncle Bob put his cigarette anywhere near my shoulder. I know that I did let him light a paper match and try to burn the tick out with it, but ended up getting burned because I wouldn’t sit still. I also remember that soaking the washcloth in some clear solution that smelled awful (no idea what it actually was) and pressing it to the tick made it die. I was driven to the hospital and had it removed.
Fast forward to after I’m all done with school. I’ve moved into my first apartment after graduation, and I’m interested in adding electrical circuit solely for powering my air conditioning units. I called upon the help of my father, who in turn called upon the help of Uncle Bob.
The three of us entered the basement of the building and found the electrical panels. In an effort to teach me how to wire an electrical circuit safely, my dad started going over the plan: Now that we had seen the panels and determined that our new circuit would fit, we should knock on the doors of each apartment and let the residents know we were going to throw the main for a few minutes. It was, as my dad insisted, the safest option.
Uncle Bob rolled his eyes.
“Give me that,” he said as he grabbed the circuit and wires out of my dad’s hands. “I’m gonna wire this baby HOT.”
Mixed emotions waved around in my dad’s mind. He carefully said “Are you sure?” because although he trusted that Bob probably knew what he was doing, the off-chance that he might electrocute himself still made him want to play it safe.
“You want a real lesson in electrical safety? Stay right here.”
My father and I waited while Bob retrieved a pair of matching two-by-fours from the back of his truck. When he came back down to the basement, he handed one of them to me.
“Alright Shaun, because your father is concerned about being safe, I’m gonna stand on this board while I wire the circuit. While I’m doing it, if you see me light up, then I want you to hit me with that one you’re holding as hard as you can.”
I stared at him in disbelief.
“I mean it. I won’t be able to let go on my own. You gotta hit me hard enough to knock me over.”
Needless to say, my father and I were both holding our breath while Bob wired the circuit. Thankfully, Bob knew what he was doing — I never had to try to separate his electrified body from the panel using only a beam of wood.
How do you write something about someone after they’ve died? How do you sum up all that they are in only a few pages? What can you even say now that they’re gone without feeling like it’s simply not enough — or how do you stop writing once you’ve finally started? You can’t possibly write everything, even when you want to. Language fails.
Consequently, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence instead.
Whoever you are, and whatever you’re doing — if you’re taking the time to read this, I ask you this favor: Close your eyes, be silent, and be still for just a moment. Even if you never knew him, please offer up just this moment.
Thank you. Goodbye Uncle Bob.
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