Today I got a package from my mother. She had let me know it was coming; she told me there’d be old home movies and Jello molds (for Chrissakes, Ma! Stop sending me Jello molds!) But she didn’t forewarn me about the envelope she had tucked at the bottom of the box.
I pulled this large document size envelope from the box, it was addressed to me and had my mother’s return address in the corner. She had obviously had it for awhile, meaning to send it and not getting around to it until now.
I sat in my car as I tore open the end and tilted it to let the contents spill out onto my lap. Out plopped a thin book with my uncle’s picture on the front. It said “Christopher Mikael Ericson, March 6, 1957 – June 27, 2013.”
It was a memorial book my mother had printed up for his memorial service back in 2013. A service I couldn’t go to because I was in Australia and the rest of the family was in the US. I took a quick look through it before setting it aside when my eyes started watering. I still needed to drive.
In early July of 2013 I had received an ominous email just saying “Call me ASAP. Don’t worry about the time. – Mom.” So I picked up and dialed her number immediately, luckily for her it was still a relatively decent time. My grandmother picked up and she could hardly contain her tears, so she passed the phone on to my mom. This is when I found out my uncle had died.
I felt so guilty because I didn’t feel that I had kept in adequate touch with him over the past several years, and for no real reason except life excuses. Busy, distance… etc. The wave of sadness become even more oppressive as I found out that he had died alone. He usually called my grandparents about once a week, they hadn’t heard from him so they called a couple of times. No answer, no calls back. My grandmother had a gut feeling that they needed to travel the few hours drive up to his house.
My grandfather found his body and ushered my grandmother away telling her not to go up the stairs. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to find your own son dead. Apparently he had been battling health woes for quite some time, so it wasn’t a complete shock to the rest of the family. However; I had not actually laid eyes on him since 2003 when he had come to my wedding. For ten years I did not see increasing signs of his health deterioration, I spoke to him briefly on the phone here and there, sent fleeting emails a few times – but I did not see how thin he got. Nor did anyone think to tell me about it either it seems.
My husband rarely sees me cry. I am relatively stoic in nature as it is, let alone the specific issue I have had in letting males see me cry. I avoid that type of scenario whenever I can. As I hung up the phone, however; I ran to the bedroom where my husband was still in bed. I threw myself at him and started sobbing. Taken aback, he asked me what was wrong. Through streaming tears and muffled by his chest I told him what news I had just received.
That day, he kept the kids away as I curled back up in bed. He didn’t complain when I left the house to wander around by myself.
I ponder uncle Chris today, remembering his old truck in the eighties… Remembering him running along side the riding mower unsuccessfully trying to stop my sister from driving it into the big old pine tree that stood behind my grandparent’s old house. As a matter of fact, that scenario happened twice – two different years with two different sisters. I remember him taking us to Sears to get new school shoes, and him picking us up from the Dulles airport one year – sneakily driving us back to my grandparent’s house where they had no idea we were coming.
So, even though it has been nearly two years since he died, I just want to say – Goodbye Uncle Chris. I miss you…. and I’m sorry I drifted away from your life in the last years. I just… always thought you’d be there.