My uncle, one of my most favourite uncles, has been diagnosed with cancer. Actually, to say so simply that he has been diagnosed with cancer would be much too dismissive of an explanation for his predicament. Cancer has decided to sucker punch him, kick him while he's on the ground, and stomp him a time or two. It's bad.
To be truthful, it's a difficult thing to type. He's something like a model man, the definitive Dad, a Cosby show cut out except, you know, white, and without four daughters and...well, nothing like a Cosby-esque character at all. He may not be an ideal, but only because who really is? No one. He is, however, as close as you might imagine a guy can come. I've always loved him, even when I was an ignorant little boy, he stood out as someone worth giving your affection to. Despite great distance, and infrequent contact, he was always someone I felt happy to call mine, or ours, as it were. Now here I sit typing this nonsense on the verge of not knowing what will happen to one of the few men I dare to call a real man. Like the world needs less of that kind of thing.
I'm not so often sure of what it is that I want out of this world, or what I want to define me, but I know that whatever he has it's something valuable, and worth wanting. I know that whatever it was that he did his whole life...his whole life...he did with a quiet kind of charisma and character...that people love him, and respect him...everyone. I know that the light that he has shone on his family is bright, and has illuminated so much love it seems impossible to gather up with just two arms. I know that looking around me my entire life I've found so much disappointment in people and then never in him, not once, not ever imagining that he could be anything but the man people measured other men by. It's true, there's no drama in that, no embellishment. He's always been a measuring stick kind of guy, even though he'd laugh at the notion. He laughs at a lot, but the anchors in our lives so often do. My Uncle Murray is every bit of that to every one of us. It was always hard to drift too far tied to Murray. He kept you tethered to something undefinable...maybe the desire to want to be worthy of his attention, or to be the kind of person that he wanted to talk to? I don't know. I only know that it made you happy to see his face light up when he saw you, to know that he was excited to see you, and interested in what you had to say, or just how you were. I know that he loved my wife, and made her feel special, and loved, so much so that she'll never be able to read this.
He's more than my cousin's dad, so much more than my Grandmother's son, or my Mom's brother. For me, he has always been, in some ways, a figment of my imagination because no one could be as cool, and sturdy, and loving, and kind, and accessible as Uncle Murray. No one. Yet he is.
I spend all day, every day searching for reasons to believe in something, grasping for tethers to tie me down to something that I can find some faith in. God knows I see it so infrequently in the faces of the people that I struggle to understand, but then there's the notion of my Uncle Murray, and I'm reminded that sometimes we get this living thing right. That indeed sounds dramatic but let me insist that there are people standing in his shadow who have never known, and never will, the kind of hurts that I see every day...there are people who have been kept safe by his love and attention who might only have abstract ideas of what disappointment might be. How's that for living a life the right way? How is that for being the kind of man we should all hope to be? It's enormous.
I'm quite sure that I could type forever, but there just aren't enough words, not even loving ones, to describe how I feel. Even now, he feels less like my Uncle, and more like someone I've just imagined. Now that's living.