a wandering woman writes

Monday, March 20, 2006


I lost my favorite uncle today.

I always called him my favorite uncle. Married to one of my father's sisters, a child of Portuguese immigrants. My dad told me he'd had a tough time of it when he first starting dating my Irish American aunt. Back then you lived on a block where every neighbor had a last name just like yours, til you grew up and married one of them. His siblings built houses on his parents' land when they married, not an uncommon occurrence in my home state. My uncle moved 5 towns away with my aunt.

My uncle was handsome. Dark and swarthy, where my other uncles were red-faced and blue eyed. He didn't do the Irish jig at parties or tell jokes. He painted delicate landscapes on empty madeira wine bottles, the short stocky ones. He did odd jobs, painted and landscaped. Best cook in the family. Linguica and peppers, mostly, and the best meat sauce for hot weiners (spicy little hot dogs) you ever tasted.

I was a fixture at his kitchen table for a couple of years in high school. I can't hear Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight without thinking of the drive home from his house the night before I left for college, drumming the steering wheel, singing at the top of my lungs. As if saying goodbye at that house settled it: I was going.

Somewhere along the line we picked each other out. Maybe we both felt a little like outsiders, who knows. Maybe there was a wandering soul hidden in my uncle. I'd fly home for a holiday, seek him out at the family gathering and recap all my latest adventures. I sent a few letters and postcards after I moved to Spain, and my aunt always wrote back. He was ill, she'd say, but I'd made his day.

Not 10 days ago, my Salmantina travelling companions chuckled watching me leap for joy as we chose Lisbon for our next destination. What might I find to send to my Uncle Tony, I wondered? Wouldn't he love to picture me in Lisbon?

So I'm left thinking about an email I read a few weeks ago: an email from a blog reader who longs to live abroad. I grinned reading his passionate description of everything driving him to explore the world outside the States. Yet something compelled me to respond directly to one of his comments: He told me he felt a call to just put his "old life in a ziplock bag" and take off.

Careful, I told him. Explore! Oh, explore. But I'm not so sure how successfully you'll keep your old life wrapped up. Crispy. Airtight.

I love living in Spain. I love my life here, and I work hard, if not always hard enough, to nurture ties with the people I love.

But today, I feel the sharp downside of a life lived far from "home." Because I hadn't seen my uncle in 3 years, and I won't be at his funeral.

And no, home won't be waiting in a ziplock bag.

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  • Oh! I feel very sorry for you losing someone so special to you.

    Such a shame some people must go.

    By Anonymous Alex, at 10:39 PM  

  • I'm sorry.

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 10:57 PM  

  • Sorry about the loss of your uncle, WW.
    Good memories will ease the pain.

    By Blogger cream, at 12:50 AM  

  • Thank you, guys. He's finally exhaling after a long illness and a lot of suffering, so for him I am happy. For me, I'll miss him, and yesterday brought home my distance. Just writing that post did bring a big smile, though, cream.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:48 AM  

  • Very sad to hear about your loss ww. Stay strong.

    By Blogger hobbes, at 1:00 PM  

  • Sending you a huge hug...I am truly sorry for your loss. It's so bittersweet to reflect on those memories. Your post was beautiful. And so our journeys continue...

    By Blogger Laura Young, at 3:47 PM  

  • I'm sorry! This makes me want to call my favorite aunt (who I always call my favorite aunt like you did with your uncle). Just discovered your blog and really like it...keep it up lady!

    By Blogger Colleen, at 10:00 PM  

  • Thank, Colleen and welcome!

    PS: Call your aunt. :-)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:45 PM  

  • Sorry, ¿didn't you write something about El Expolio street?. It's odd, because I read it on Bloglines, and when I came back to coment, It had disapeared.

    By Anonymous Alex, at 11:03 AM  

  • Ups!
    It's back, Alex.

    That was scarey!

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:26 AM  

  • I'm sorry WW.
    I agree, although nothing can replace him, you have the good moments you spent together.

    By Blogger Nomadita, at 4:59 PM  

  • Why didn't you attend his funeral or see him when you were in the U. S. working in California for the month? Just asking because you said he was your favorite.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:45 AM  

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