Good Night, Uncle Paddy
His name was Lynn. His skin was the color of freshly turned earth. The kind you could dig your hands in and know only good things would grow there. If you were to ask me his height, I would say anywhere between 6'2 and 8'10 depending on the day. My uncle was bigger than life. Tall and lean, he would fill the room with whatever he brought with him; most often his laughter. And that voice. He could fill a room with song (my personal favorite was Wildflower).
Age never took that glint out of his eye. The one he must have had when he was a little boy, raising hell with my mother when he gave her the nickname “Doe.” During one of his many visits to our house, my then three year-old sister, jumped out of my mother’s lap, ran to him and shouted, “HEYYYYY UNCLE PADDY!” His laughter filled the whole house, bringing everyone to the front room and the nickname stuck. No one knew where she came up with that name, but if his Kelly said he was an Uncle Paddy, then that’s just what he was.
I remember being little and laying my head on his cool arm, then making him switch places when my face warmed that arm up. He laughed and never fussed. When my mother passed away, he and my aunt took me in without a moment’s hesitation. My dad and stepmother thought I would take that time to go wild, but he was ten times more tough on me than my father could have hoped to be. His only sister’s child wasn’t falling by the wayside on his watch. “What do you need? To go shopping? You need paper (money)? You better let me know no matter what.”
As jovial as he was, loss tears at even the strongest of spirits. My grandmother, then my mother, then my Uncle Eugene, and finally my Marion, leaving him as the only surviving sibling. We joked about there being a final Highlander-type battle between him and my 90 year old grandfather, who finally closed his eyes the following year. There was a loneliness that took over that he carried with him until the end. As his organs shut down, his memory was affected. He would ask for this parent or that sibling. When he was reminded that he was the only one left, he would cry.
Maybe the tears will come later, but for now, I’m at peace with this wonderful man not having to suffer in illness anymore. He doesn’t have to live a life where all of the people who shaped the man he became are gone. There’s a selfishness in me that wishes he was still here to laugh about how terrible I was, but defend me anyway. I was blessed to grow up among great men, and he was the best of them.
Good night, Uncle Paddy. Life showed favor by letting me know you.
Love you always.