say uncle

That blue heeler my sister-in-law found was doctored back to health and settling in to his new home, at the apartment of their administrative assistant. She brought the dog over to their house for a visit, not wanting to leave it alone while she went to a party. At some point during the night, however, the dog wandered off into the woods, and no one was able to find him.

Around this time, I was at home wrestling with a decision to call an uncle who had sent an email a few days earlier. I sat staring at the phone number, twice dialing the number without actually calling. At one point, I drove to town to buy a bottle of whiskey, came back, dialed again. Hung up. I already have a sense of everything that happened. But in his message, he asked. He said, 'please call me.' It is not the kind of request you turn down without its own sense of regret.

The man who picked up the phone was hard to understand. All my family comes from Texas, and as they age and lose their teeth or fall back into their old, familiar dialects, it gets harder to understand them. This man was clearly not my uncle, and neither of us fully perceived what the other was trying to convey. I'm not sure what I eventually said right, but he did finally tell me to hold on. After a long pause, he asked, 'You still there?'

Yes. By a thread, I thought.

"I'm the last of the Mohicans," he said.

I guess he is the last of the boys my grandparents brought into the world. I knew my dad had died, and he confirmed it. Said he had suffered from emphysema. He said that my other uncle had come down with colon cancer and decided he wasn't interested in treating it. None of the brothers kept very close contact, so he wasn't sure where either of them were buried.

I told him I had heard this. That everything had sort of come up with the news that my half-sister had died in a fire earlier in the year. He hadn't known any of this. He said that he had attended some kind of benefit in Waco and noticed the name of the woman who had died was Rogers. He had joked with a friend that the woman was probably related to him.

I told him she was. She was his niece. And the two little kids who died were his relatives, too.

He said that he was a grandfather four times over. He mentioned a daughter of his, and told me she worked at a school near Austin. He said that she wasn't speaking with him, but I didn't ask why. He asked me to keep in touch, and told me that he loved me, and what do you say there? The whole conversation I kept reminding myself that I am an adult heading into the second half of my life, and not the 5 year old boy who nearly drowned at the lake, pulled up at the last moment by this uncle's ex-wife. They introduced us to pizza, back when it was kind of a big deal to eat it at a restaurant. God, what was the name of that place. There was some checkered flag on the sign. It was over 30 years ago, who even knows.

There isn't ever going to be any conclusion to all of this. They are just going to die off quietly, and any resolution I might have entertained, any answer to why and how, is through. The only thing that has ever held my boat in place was the weight of the chain. Pulling it up now, that final link, I can see that it wasn't connected to any anchor. I think maybe now the wind will pick up. We'll see.

That dog simply went home. It made it back to his owner's house, who, seeing as it had been attacked and treated, fitted with a new collar and chip, took it in to the town vet. The woman who owned the dog had not imagined she would ever find him again. She said he was 14 years old, and had recently suffered through the death of his life's-long mate. After his companion died, he had simply wandered off into the woods, his purpose his own and known to him alone. He had been attacked and nearly killed. Had crawled up to my sister-in-law's house to die. Had been saved and taken in. Had left once more for home.


Dave2 said…
In the end, we're all looking for "home." That the definition of "home" sometime changes due to situation and circumstance is a side effect of living.

And sometimes, dying.

Animals seem to have a better sense for these things. I don't know if that is a trait to be envied or pitied.
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure I can echo Dave's sentiment. Some of are homeward bound, sure, but some of us just plain bound. Others of us could care less about "home."

Anyway, I like it when you tell us what your world looks like. I still regret reaching out to my father (?) and his brother when my grandpa died last year--or was it two years ago? All that grapevine talk about wishing they could find me, my name included in the obit, and then...quiet. Again.

They sold my dead grandpa's house in Texas recently.
Brandon said…
dave i find that sometimes i envy and sometimes pity depending entirely on my mood.

summer, i waver between wanting home and indifference. you shouldn't regret reaching out because then i would have to regret not reaching out. maybe we can go halfsies and live off the averages.
eclectic said…
All of the lovely words belong to you. Whatever the subject, however heavy or humorous, no matter; you make it wondrous to be able to read.

Blood may be thicker than water, but I'm coming to believe that such sentiment is relevant only in discussions of specific gravity relative to fluid dynamics and NOT (as has been posited) in relation to relatives themselves. Experiences do shape us, form our circumstances and sometimes limit our choices, sure; nonetheless, a pheonix rises because of who and what it is, not where.
Janet said…
That anchor-less chain took my breath for a moment.
Brandon said…
shari, blood is thicker than water only in the absence of everclear, as you shall soon rediscover.

janet, the sea can make for breathtaking metaphors.

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