The jacket I’m wearing in this picture belonged to one of my favorite uncles. I love all of my uncles, to be clear. They’re all fantastic, hilarious, special people who have special places not only in MY world, but in THE world.
However, the particular uncle whom this jacket belonged to is now dearly departed. The space I’m inhabiting in this memory was a party space, and all night long I told people that I was wearing a family heirloom. I also incorrectly referred to my uncle as my great-uncle. Mistakes. The roots are a bit misplaced on my mother’s side so forgive me.
If we’re going to get technical about things – he’s my second cousin. My parents taught me a thing or two about respecting my elders though. It didn’t feel appropriate to call him by his first name without a title preceding it. Especially with such a large age gap between us, so uncle it was.
My uncle served for the United States Army (Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade) in the Vietnam War. From there he went into a career with the United States Postal Service. I’m a bit foggy on all of the numbers, but I know he worked more than 20 years working various positions there, the majority of his years spent serving as a mail carrier. He retired, but never received his pension.
He never married. That’s a particular story filled with pain and heartbreak resulting in the disownment of another sibling. I don’t have the details, like most things in life, but I know it ended unresolved.
Thinking of where I am in life at my age in comparison to my uncle at this age, I feel I’ll never come close to his personal achievements. We have certain things in common. I know that in our lifetimes we both lived long enough to bury a sibling. Who knows, maybe I’ll be screwed by some corporate/government entity and not receive my pension. Maybe I won’t get married either.
I have no doubt that he led an incredible life that he never spoke much about. I know he certainly didn’t speak of it to me. In talking to my other uncles/his brothers, I’m not sure if they knew much about him either. I don’t care much for the way he passed away, or the quality of his life for his last years. I wish we all could have done more. We all cared for him though. We all loved him.
When I was in my early teens my parents and I visited him in Santa Barbara, CA where he lived. I remember he took me to the (now defunct) record store Down On Haley, which was run by pop-punk band The Ataris’ founder Kris Roe. That was really significant to 13 or 14-year-old me. That somebody gave a shit enough about me to take me to some stupid record store. Maybe he knew that memory would last me forever. He even shilled out $5 to buy me the vinyl 7’ Assorted Jelly Beans/Vandals split that I wanted. That I still own.
We spread his ashes out to sea off the coast of Santa Barbara.
There’s so much more and I fear I’ll never find the words.