It’s funny how you can’t imagine some things. You give them some space in your mind every so often, to graze like cows on a farm, considering what they might be like. But not enough actual room to conjure up the real deal. This is the case with watching people you love get older and what happens to them, and how you don’t really think it will happen, even though you know it will, but there is such a gigantic leap across so many thousands of imaginary miles you have to take to believe it, that you ultimately just can’t until you’re in the actual situation. And even then, you feel like you’ve gone down the rabbit hole with Alice.
My uncle Louie has been in my life since I was born. A sturdy, funny, history teacher, master gardener, stellar chef, superior eater, realtor, and really good cheek pincher. His three boys have always been like brothers to me. His wife, as close as a blood relative. And when my mother, Lou’s sister died, they became like parents to me, and then like grandparents to my children.
Uncle Louie has a form of dementia now that has stolen his ability to speak. This, for a born talker, is cruel. This for a doer and mover and shaker is mean. His strong body is still going as hard as ever, but his mind has had a “gone fishin'” sign for quite a while now. And so here we are. In that unimaginable place. And though we’re here, it’s still unimaginable. I miss that guy, although he’s still alive. It’s ridiculous and terrible not only for the person (although is it? Hard to know), but for those who are still here. It’s a bitter challenge to grieve someone who is walking around.
It would be a good thing to figure out how to die better. The end part of life can be so harsh, robbing everything a person is, infecting them with all sorts of maladies that make them into shadows. Should we be more like library books? Should we have return dates? So grateful to have known him. My uncle. So lucky he once was mine.