Sunday, October 15, 2006

Uncle Hank

What I remember most is his love for Halloween. I was actually a little afraid of him when he came to the door. He didn’t dress up, but he was the crankiest old man on the block. “Why are you knocking on my door?” he would scream. Aunt Lois was always on his heals to invite us in and offer us enough treats to fill our bags. They gave us popcorn balls, candy corn, chocolate assortments that far exceeded our hopes and a welcome so warm we always knew we were loved.

When I grew up and had kids of my own, Uncle Hank and Aunt Lois were always our favorite place to stop. He still demanded to know what we wanted, knocking at his door at such a late hour, but as an adult, I was able to understand that he was having more fun than anyone else. Even as an adult, I had a hard time not feeling as though all of their efforts were just for me, to make me feel wanted. I wonder how many people out there felt the same way?

Halloween will never be the same again. Uncle Hank died Tuesday, and was laid to rest Friday. He received a 21 gun solute from the Veterans Association. He had joined the navy when he was 16 (he got some woman to falsify his paperwork) and because of something he experienced serving the navy, he spent the last 34 years of his life disabled with brain tumors and such. Aunt Lois was by his side, taking care of him the entire time.

No one really knows how the death of her husband will effect her. At his funeral, she actually looked relieved and strong. I hope that’s how she carries on. I hope she has some idea as to how she will fill the time now.

She looked at me and asked in amazement “isn’t it wonderful that we have so many friends?” Of course there were a lot of people there who loved her. Aunt Lois didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. Everyone who knew her loved her. Of course she has a lot of friends. She would have a lot of friends. She will not find herself alone now.
Uncle Hank and Aunt Lois were two of the people that helped me survive my childhood. I never felt judged, just loved. I think Aunt Lois is the embodiment of unconditional love and acceptance. They also had a major impact on my autistic son. He always had a place to go to feel ok. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel genuinely welcomed.

Uncle Hank is gone now, and I think the best way to honor him, is to find a way to pay forward all of the love I got each and every time I visited. And to take care of Aunt Lois and make sure she has anything she needs to be happy, anything I can do will be done.


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