When I was an awkward pre-teen with buck teeth and stringy hair, I had a few "Why me?" tearful moments with my Strawberry Shortcake pillow.
Then came the soft rapping on my bedroom door.
"Sisseroo, it's your Uncle Jimmy. Can I come in?"
My face buried in the pillow, I'd look up to see his strong runner's legs walking toward me. Then those hairy tan arms brought me to his chest to let me cry.
There we sat, two Geminis, brooding over the injustice of crooked teeth and cowlicks. I was so blissfully happy to have him on my team.
We grew up in a house of mixed generations: grandparents, their children, and the offspring of one - Eric and me. The six of us were a motley crew as we lived under the same roof, cheated at the same Monopoly, and licked the same dinner plates. Eric and I had it so good that we now refer to those years as our golden years. A magical time when our home was filled with laughter, Cheers, and someone to love us always within reach. In a nest like that, nothing could go wrong.
Jimmy was our constant in a sea of variables. Even though he was a young great-looking bachelor, he spent much of his free time with us at home. He took Eric and me to Brookside Gardens just for fun, ate pizza on the couch with us, and video taped us doing bike tricks in our driveway. He never pretended to be our dad, he was always the fun uncle, and in our hearts there was no need for distinction. Jimmy was ours and we were so lucky to have him.
Years later, my Uncle Jimmy married a beautiful lady and started his own family. I missed him so. We all did but we adored Mary and were so excited to share a life with her too. Besides, many Sundays Jimmy could be found back at our house to watch at least the first half of a Redskins game with our grandma. Two of the biggest Skins fans to ever walk the earth.
Handsome Brendan was born first. Then exquisite Haley. And finally beautiful Leah. I visited them when I was home from college, caught up over birthday parties, and hugged him tightly when it was time to go. We never seemed to have enough time; I missed him so. We all did. It's what you do when Jimmy's not around. You just miss him.
Then, when it was time for me to find my own forever man to love me, none of them measured up. How could they when compared to my Uncle Jimmy. How could anyone else be:
- handsome and rugged but not a woos.
- silly but have impeccable comedic timing.
- lover of the outdoors but not mind a lazy afternoon nap in the sun.
- a movie buff, lover of books, and writer of poetry like Pablo Neruda.
- tan in the summer, handsome in a suit, and still cute in workout shorts.
- there when you need him most.
- an animal lover, music lover, and lover of all things cheese.
- with the heart of a lamb but the convictions of a lion.
- so very devoted to his family.
- peace and calm to my soul.
My Uncle Jimmy taught me so much. He taught me to stand up for what I believe in: animal rights and comfortable clothes. Make waves but don't be afraid to surf them, too. Trust my gut. Listen to live music. Love Cat Stevens and The Police. Follow my dreams. Make new ones. Remember my past but dive into my future. Write with my heart on my sleeve. Edit that sh*t later. Love all creatures, great and small. But especially the furry. Hug without abandon. Say I love you, every single time. Show off my talents but only to those who will appreciate seeing them. Treasure my friends but adore my family. Exercise. Make the perfect Moose eggs and take time to iron collars and sleeves really well. By simply watching him for years, I learned to be kind as a rule and interesting to a fault.
There just isn't anyone in the world like Jimmy.
How does a person with that much love, spirit, soul, and life in him just not be here anymore? I cannot yet process his passing; how we will go on without him. Because we miss him so. It's just what you do when he's not here. You. Miss. Him.
In my most recent Facebook exchanges with Jimmy, he signed off (every time) with, "I love you to the bone."
My Beloved Uncle Jimmy. I love you to the bone, beyond, and back again forever. We all do. I see it really was possible to die of a broken heart.
Now we all just have to figure out how to live with one.