Song for the day: Hearts of Olden Glory by Runrig.
Because these are both on my Sad playlist for when I need to cry and now you’re going to come in to them at your funeral.
Sorry for the utter radio silence lately. I’ve been wrestling with myself about whether to post this or not, but I think I’m going to. It’s very personal to me.
Very, very sadly, my uncle, who has been my second father throughout my childhood, passed away from a sudden and “catastrophic” heart attack a couple of weeks ago, on my mum/Aunty’s birthday holiday. There. I said it. And I have to keep saying it, because three weeks later it still doesn’t feel real. I’m still in shock.
When my grandma died last November, I expected it. Hell, I’d been preparing myself for it for years, and then when we got the call the weekend before to say she was close, it was a relief almost.
But this… this has completely blindsided me.
My Uncle Dave was a constant in my life. Married to my mum’s twin sister, and one of my dad’s best friends since they were 16, he was always going to be closer than my other uncles. Our families are practically conjoined, each one extension of the other, my cousins more like my siblings. I just never anticipated that that dynamic would change, especially this early in my life.
It has forced me to rethink everything about my life, and I never realised just how much he was engrained in it until now.
Every time I heard sirens, I’d wonder if it was him, involved in a daring police chase. Just last week, my dad mentioned how he’d love to just get paid for taking pictures of new land rovers on the road, and I said “you could lie in wait in a lay-by like -” and then had to stop myself because I didn’t realise that my uncle was always my go-to comparison.
I was counting how many plates we’d need and I overcounted because I automatically did family units, blocks of four plus my other Aunty and uncle – but it’s not blocks of four anymore and I didn’t realise and I almost started crying again.
I’ve done most of my crying in bed late at night. I’ve cried far more this last few weeks than I ever cried for my grandma. Uncle Dave has left a massive chasm in my chest. I honestly feel kind of empty. I’m starting to cry again now. I’ve been trying to be strong for my family. My dad is utterly devastated. I’ve never seen him like this.
I’m starting to realise what real grief looks like when you haven’t been stretching it out over years and preparing yourself.
When I think of how entwined our families are, and how that doesn’t even count the fact that my mum’s entire side is close, or how our two families share family friends whose unit numbers have also taken a hit, and how that will never be the same, and how our walking/camping holidays will be no more, even though we haven’t been on one since us kids started uni, but he was always just a stoic presence dragging us all up mountains anyway. Always the one up at dawn, off to the shop to get bread. On a 2 mile hike to the boulangerie when we went to France, so when we emerged into the cold of our campsite there would be warm croissants and baguettes ready for dunking in the Cadbury’s instant hot chocolate.
He would man the BBQ, the food done to perfection because he wouldn’t settle for anything less.
That extended to BBQs at home, and he would shack up in the corner with his tongs and grill and beer. You wouldn’t go near, unless you could get away with pinching a bread roll from the picnic bench behind him. He always ordered a mixed grill at the pub.
You couldn’t go near when he did Christmas dinner either. He would shut himself in the kitchen for hours, and when he emerged it would be with a veritable feast that was always cooked to perfection and absolutely gorgeous.
The night before he would stomp down to the carols on the marketplace, and he wouldn’t sing loudly, but he was always there, providing the bass line for the family group (my dad would be booming loudly over the top). I never realised how I always listened for him, picked out his voice to check if he was singing about flocks or socks.
I used to phone him about geometry questions, and he always seemed like this maths wizard, the Rolls Royce engineer who built aeroplane engines before moving to the police.
The one to crack jokes and make everyone laugh. The one to start the banter with the inlaws. The one who always made sure his mam was ok at family gatherings when our family got a little too terrifying.
He scared the shit out of me sometimes, but he was a reliable presence in my life, one that I’m never going to get over losing. I keep thinking he’s just on a night shift, and he’s going to pop through the door later and wave at everyone, “ey up, Katie, you alright?”
We’d just started having ~adult conversations and I was looking forward to the advice I was going to get from them. I’m going to keep at it. That’s what you said to do about driving and jobs.
I miss you already, Uncle Dave. And I’m probably never going to stop.