December 28, 2009

into a white and soundless place

my uncle died. I went to his funeral, and made vague overtures about the whole thing on twitter and tumblr, but didn't really say anything about him, so I figure this is a good a place as any to do it.
I guess, really, there are four vignettes that encapsulate my knowledge of him not just from our uncle/nephew relationship but also what I got told about when my parents decided to tell stories of their childhoods, half a world away. Here goes:

  1. He was eighth of ten children, the youngest son (and three years older than my mom). They grew up close, and even after my parents married my dad referred to him, jokingly, as his second father-in-law — even after they emigrated to Canada, my uncle kept tabs on my dad, a little.
  2. moving across the world strikes me as a fundamental act of either madness or faith. My parents did it with sponsors shortly after marriage and before their first child, literally starting a new life together. My uncle did it with my aunt, two teenagers and a tween, after 22 years (!) of a stable government job, moving from pre-instability Fiji into mid-90s northern California, with all its attendant madnesses, gaping pits of culture shock, and a whole lot of loved ones who went from a 16-hour flight to a 16-hour drive away. I can't get my head around it.
  3. they moved over in 1995, and we visited once or twice a year (and vice versa); not always the most traditional of vacations by any means, I remember one Easter weekend in 1998 or 1999, we piled into the minivan and drove for 18 hours straight to see my uncle for his birthday (two days before mine), stayed for two days, and then drove back. Somewhere in there, my aunt made crab curry with habaneros instead of jalapenos, and we all wept and ate snow crab and regretted it in the morning.
  4. He called, pretty much weekly, usually just to ask how everyone was, and what we'd been up to. The timing was such that he usually caught me as I stepped in the door while my parents were out running errands or on the night shift this week and so we got to talking about as frequently as him and my mother did. He was also more supportive of the photo hobby/side gig/gambit/eventual career than my parents were at first, and asked me to email him photos of babytron fairly regularly. (which I did; he met babytron this August when my sister went to visit him well before he took a turn for the worse. I didn't go for fear of missing a production night and cannot adequately relate how much I regret this.)

The last one is why, at the funeral, sleep-deprived, upset, and lacking most of my ability to speak (and all of my ability to speak Hindi) when my mom came over and looked at me, swollen and despondent, she reached for a hug and asked as she broke down again, "who's going to call us now?" I lost it. It's also why I dread phone calls a little because I know who it isn't and who it won't be (no matter how much I want it to change,) and in future, it's why I won't be putting work first for a long time.

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