Words Left Unspoken
Dear Uncle Joe,
It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since I hugged you goodbye. I was only eighteen years old and thought I knew everything. The first thing I didn’t know was how much that day would haunt me. Seeing you cry broke my heart. The only other time I had seen you cry was the day that Grandma died.
When I became a teenager, we argued constantly. I desperately wanted my independence and you wanted to keep me out of harm’s way. The more you tried to hold me close, the harder I pushed you away. I thought you were over-protective. You thought I was naive. My solution was to move to the West Coast, two thousand miles away.
At first, the move was exhilarating. I was finally free. Until I craved being close to my family. Something you said to me on my twenty-first birthday upset me and made me cry. I no longer remember what it was. You wrote me a letter and told me that you were sorry that you made me cry. You said that you hoped I didn’t cry often and that it made you sad because I sounded like a lonely little girl. At the time, I was — but I never told you that. I missed you and Aunt Sarah more than I ever realized I could. The good thing is that our relationship changed for the better after that.
I’ll never forget that day in August when I called you. You sounded so different. Almost frail — not the booming baritone voice I grew to love. I was scared because I sensed something was wrong. I called the next day to let you know that I was coming home to visit. I didn’t say why. You said we would have lunch as soon as I got there and that you couldn’t wait to see me. We hadn’t seen each other since the day I left, three years prior. I spent the night at Uncle Tony’s and woke up to words that I will never forget. “Honey, your Uncle Joe passed away last night.”
I never got to thank you in person for all you did for me. I had so much to say to you. So many things to say “I’m sorry” for. To say “I love you, and I miss you” in person. I wanted to hug you again, like I did that day on the porch. Only this time, it was going to be a happy hug. I wanted you to meet my son — your grand-nephew. You would have loved him. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over losing you like that. I was so close. I made it all the way home. But I was too late. So now, I write you letters, like this one. I think of you often — especially on your birthday, the day you left us, and on holidays like this. All I can do is say that I will always love, and miss you.
Merry Christmas Uncle Joe
Your Niece, Denise