Today you went to your Uncle’s funeral.
No, it’s all right. He was old – a good 80 years. And he had cancer, and it hadn’t been pleasant these last few months so, all in all, something of a blessed relief.
Plus, you won’t pretend you knew him that well. He was considerably older than your Dad and they didn’t grow up together. And for years your family and Uncle’s did tag team Granny visiting so as not to overwhelm her, the point of which was, you didn’t meet.
You’d only seen him a few times since you moved back to the UK. He sent money and cards for your birthday, and your kids birthdays. The money was always more than you really thought was necessary. The cards were usually funny, bawdy, crude or all three and made you snigger. You rarely said thank you properly. Your main way of showing your appreciation was to put rather more effort into his Christmas presents than those for most of your other relatives. You doubt he realised this. Last year you found mugs which definitely beat Uncle at his own game. You were touched to be served tea in them when you went to see him for what turned out to be the last time. It’s a shame Christmas is coming up because Uncle tended to send Dad small, gloriously odd gadgetty presents, which were one of those little highlights of the season that you look forward to.
But those scant memories are not why you are feeling a bit depressed this evening.
Uncle was the sort of man who you were happy to think existed in the world. You didn’t know he had been expelled from public school for writing satirical verses about his teachers, but it didn’t surprise you. You didn’t know he was thrown out of the army on the grounds of mental instability for, among other things, painting his uniform in the white leather polish reserved for the belt. That surprised you. You didn’t know he wrote poetry, but you read some of it at the wake. It wasn’t boring. It wasn’t banal. That didn’t surprise you. Neither did some of the contributions to his running club’s newspaper. The one about working out some world record holder’s feat in units of tortoise, based on his observation of his own tortoise was your personal favourite. You knew how involved he was in various clubs in his home town,and it didn’t surprise you how warmly regarded he was by the members, or that one of his friends from the club nearly didn’t finish the eulogy because he broke down towards the end.
He was a lovely man, he made an impression on the world, so much so that even your son remembers him and he only met him, what, three times.
So it’s not alright, not alright at all, really.
Place won’t be the same without him in it.
This was the closing music. One of Uncle’s favourites. You didn’t know that either. And you defy anyone not to be surprised when the… uh… singing starts.