My Uncle Ken died yesterday.
He was married to my mom's sister Esther, my Deedee, and I was a flower girl in their wedding.
We loved going to visit them in the summer and at Christmas time. The best part of the visit, hands down, was driving with Uncle Ken. We would put on our seatbelts in the slippy slidey leather back seat of their huge white Lincoln, and off we would go. We coaxed Uncle Ken to drive faster, faster, until we were flying over the roads and our stomachs would dip out from under us. There was one hill in particular that never failed to make us cheer, and Uncle Ken sailed over it every time.
I thought he was wildly romantic, because he always held Deedee's hand when they drove, or else she played with his hair, and sometimes they would kiss at stoplights. (I still think that's romantic.)
When we were a few years older, the swoopy, twisty road was replaced by a highway. It was quicker of course, but boring to drive on ... but that didn't stop Uncle Ken. If we weren't close to any other vehicles, he would swerve in big S shapes or pretend to pass ghost cars. (I was embarrassingly old before I understood just what a ghost car was.)
If we weren't driving in the Lincoln, we were playing inside the bunk of his transport truck. There were always a half-dozen air fresheners hanging from the mirror, at least two each of vanilla and leather and evergreen. That combination never fails to call up the happiest memories of climbing up ... up ... up into the cab, pushing and pulling a million buttons, and watching - incredibly! - a tiny little black and white tv from an actual bed inside a gigantic truck.
He would pull up at our place and honk that huge horn and then take us out for ice cream or french fries or whatever we wanted.
When I was supposed to be grown-up, living on my own for the first time in Ottawa, Uncle Ken and Deedee joined my parents and sister and drove all the way to Ottawa just to see me for less than a day before they had to get back for work. All that way, just to ease my homesickness.
Uncle Ken was fun, and loving, and kind, and patient, and generous.
It's silly - it's stupid, actually, because I'm a writer and I spill words all over the place - but I can't remember actually telling him how much I loved him, or thanking him for making ordinary things special.
So if you're reading this, and you're lucky enough to have an Uncle Ken, or Aunt Lynn, or Grampie, or Grammy, or whomever you have, please please please take some time to tell them the ways that they have made your life better, happier, sweeter.
In honour of my wonderful