About a week ago I called my Uncle Tom to check in on him. I try to do this monthly, but in the hustle of the summer, I haven't spoken to him since May or June. Both of my father's siblings, Tom and Nancy, never had their own children. They did marry into fabulous families, but always remained close to us, their nieces and nephews. My aunt Nancy has always been like a second mom; a shoulder to cry on, or the voice of reason when I'm unsure on what path to take in my life. And my uncle Tom? Well, he is always a good time. He had a fantastic boat growing up, a miniature schnauzer that did tricks, and has always been the life of the party. Some of my fondest memories growing up are times spent with both of them. I'd be lying if I said that either hadn't had a serious impact on the way I live my life now.
My aunt Sue, Tom's wife, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and Dementia 8 years ago. This was devastating on many different levels. Uncle Tom was just retiring and they had their whole life in front of them. This was also devastating because my aunt Sue was just as much the life of the party as my uncle Tom and to watch her slowly disintegrate over the past 8 years into a somewhat lesser version of herself has been painful - most of all for my uncle Tom, who has been the most amazing husband through it all. A couple of years ago, he was faced with the reality that he could no longer take care of her (which he had done solely up to this point with little outside help) and had to put her in an assisted living home. As a family, we hoped that he would build and outside life and begin to live again. Perhaps he has, but most of his days are still spent right next to my aunt Sue. Even on the days she doesn't remember.
This brings me back to my phone call last week. The one where I called just to check in on him. Some of his friends were just leaving after Sunday Football, beer and pizza and he was relaxing. We chit chatted about everyday mundane stuff until he just happened to mention that he would be in Vegas this week.
"Thee Las Vegas?"
"Are there any others?"
"Oh my gosh, Uncle Tom, I'll be in St. George for the weekend - that's only a couple of hours a way. I'll come down and see you!"
"No, that's o.k."
"Don't be silly, I would never miss an opportunity to see you. I WILL come down."
"Don't bother, it's a short trip with some friends"
"A couple that I've traveled with for over 30 years"
"Well then, I'll be there."
"No, really. You don't need to."
"No, really. I'm coming."
And so, just like that, I hung up the phone and made arrangements. When I called Jess, ecstatic about my plans explaining how great this trip was going to be. Jess graciously pointed out that maybe, just maybe, my uncle was so discouraging because he didn't want me there. IMPOSSIBLE. Was my conclusion. Who in there right mind wouldn't want me there?
I called my Uncle Tom the next day to tell him that it was official. A girlfriend and I would be tagging along on every bit of his adventure. He chuckled, said that would be good, and that I should know that he was bringing along a lady friend.
This is the moment when everything made startling sense. HE DIDN'T WANT ME THERE. He was going on vacation with a lady friend. A lady friend? This was so exciting. Uncle Tom deserved to have a lady friend. Was this there first vacation together and I had invited myself? Ignored all of his not so subtle hints? Gosh, I was an idiot. And now I had a mess. Should I bow out? But I wanted to go to Vegas. And I wanted to see my Uncle Tom.
"Well, maybe we should do this another time," I stammered.
"Don't be silly."
And just like that I went on vacation with my uncle Tom and his lady friend.
To be Continued...