Monday, September 29, 2008

Al Walker

My uncle, Al Walker, died Thursday night in Barrie, Ontario. Run through with cancer and unable to go home to die, he instead passed in his sleep. He was 65 years old.

For a small boy, Uncle Al seemed several scores larger than life. He was a towering man with big hands and a huge frame. He was something from an Eisley essay. Into a family of staid customs and Mennonite ancestry came this brandy-drinking, cigarette-smoking, Lincoln-driving salesman. Beneath all this worldliness was a great kindness and generosity.

If I ever knew the story of how he met my Aunt Joan I’ve long forgotten. Indeed, I cannot remember the first time we met. But I remember still their wedding. I remember the moment he waved us into the drive of the cottage where we were staying. The ceremony was held inside another cottage and out of the rain. I remember someone in attendance yelling out for another kiss after their first and everyone applauding the second offering. My mother later told me a story of overhearing Al telling Greg, my cousin and Joan’s son, that he would be the best father to him he could. And so he was.

The obligations of an uncle aren’t clear, so Uncle Al set his own standards. He was kind, giving, and interested. He and my aunt welcomed me into their home for long stays. With great encouragement he listened to my struggle to learn the guitar. And with great patience he listened to me bang on about whatever topic interested me at the time. Indeed, of the great regrets I shall chalk up in my life one is that I did not have occasion -- that I did not make the occasion -- to tell him how much I enjoyed the better part of two summers I spent at his home in my early teenage years. And I shall regret not having the chance to repeat those great visits.

I should hope that my Uncle will exit my life the same way he entered. Not in one instant, but in a series of great memories. That is, that he might continue ghosting around in my memory and thoughts with no clear departure. And that he might remain larger than life.

1 comment:

Tashi said...

Your beautiful words made me miss a cousin. Thanks for sharing this.